PHARMACY

Health-reform bill passes in the House, pharmacy groups express support for pharmacy provisions

BY Allison Cerra

ALEXANDRIA, Va. The healthcare-reform bill advanced on Sunday by the U.S. House of Representatives contains several pro-pharmacy provisions, two pharmacy groups said Monday.

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association commended pro-pharmacy provisions that were included in the healthcare-reform bill that passed late Sunday. The provisions included improvements to medication therapy management; scaling back cuts to Medicaid pharmacy reimbursement rates under the average manufacturer price (ensuring federal upper limits are set using a multiplier of “no less than” 175% — much higher than the levels set under the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005); and exemption of pharmacies from durable medical equipment accreditation requirements. Additionally, the NCPA commended the bill’s requirement of limited disclosure from pharmacy benefit managers operating in the new exchanges to hold down costs.

These provisions, which have been heavily lobbied by NACDS and NCPA, were part of the healthcare-reform measure passed by the Senate in December 2009. Earlier this month, NACDS advocated these changes to the healthcare system (specifically, AMP, MTM and DME accreditation) at its annual RxImpact Day on Capitol Hill, during which more than 250 NACDS members, pharmacy school students and faculty, state pharmacy association representatives and other pharmacy advocates conducted more than 220 meetings with their elected officials.

“The important takeaway is that pharmacy’s provisions have been maintained through another step in this process,” said NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson. “Some very supportive leaders on Capitol Hill stepped up and kept these issues in the mix, and we appreciate their pro-patient, pro-pharmacy commitment. As we have said all along, advancing NACDS’ priorities will require continued vigilance as the legislative process unfolds, and into a regulatory process –– this in many ways is still the early stage of our campaign to advance pharmacy’s value and viability as the face of neighborhood healthcare. We very much appreciate and value those pharmacy champions in Congress who are standing with us.”

The passage of this legislation will improve pharmacist-patient collaboration, thus reducing costs, the groups said.

“The pharmacy provisions in the healthcare bill passed by the House of Representatives are welcome steps towards improving the delivery of prescription drug services to patients across America. Once the bill becomes law, many community pharmacies can continue serving Medicaid patients as well as offering Medicare beneficiaries’ essential medical supplies, like diabetes testing strips,” said Bruce Roberts, NCPA EVP and CEO. “In addition, federal officials, patients and taxpayers would benefit from having greater access to information about practices that may only pad PBM profits while raising healthcare costs. The lack of transparency largely leaves health plan sponsors and patients in the dark. Increasingly, public and private payers are reducing drug costs through greater transparency.”

In related news, the American Pharmacists Association applauded the inclusion of provisions relating to patient access to pharmacists’ MTM services, medications and a viable pharmacy infrastructure.

“We strongly support the bill’s inclusion of provisions to address our nation’s medication use crisis.  This is an opportunity for pharmacists to deliver as the medication experts on the healthcare team,” said Thomas E. Menighan, APhA EVP and CEO. “We opened the door for the recognition of pharmacist’s services.  Now we need to continue that work with regulators and our colleague organizations to ensure that patients have the tools that they need to manage their medication therapy.”

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Retail Clinician special report focuses on patient-centered care

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK Drug Store News’ sister publication, Retail Clinician, has issued a special report on an exclusive study conducted by Take Care Health Systems in conjunction with Gallup Consulting that measured patient engagement levels among Take Care Clinic visitors, with an eye toward elevating the patient experience.

 

The report, which is anchored by the original white paper — written by Sharon Glave Frazee, Ph.D., VP corporate healthcare analytics and research team for Walgreens, along with John H. Fleming, Ph.D., principal, chief scientist customer engagement and humansigma®, Gallup, and Margaret Ozan Rafferty, R.N., M.H.A., M.B.A., healthcare global practice leader for Gallup — and also includes an interview with Take Care CEO Peter Miller discussing the significance of the findings and what it means both for Walgreens and Take Care, and the impact Take Care’s unusually high levels of patient engagement is having on clinic traffic.

 

A copy of the report can be downloaded here.

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High doses of cholesterol drug may raise muscle injury risk, FDA warns

BY Alaric DeArment

SILVER SPRING, Md. Patients taking a common drug for treating high cholesterol may be at increased risk of muscle injury, the Food and Drug Administration warned Friday.

The FDA warned patients and healthcare professionals of the risk of muscle injury, also known as myopathy, in patients taking simvastatin in the 80-mg strength. Though muscle injury is a side effect common among all statins, the agency said patients taking higher doses of simvastatin run a higher risk. Of particular concern is the risk of rhabdomyolysis, a severe form of myopathy that can lead to kidney damage, kidney failure and sometimes death.

Merck originally marketed simvastatin under the brand name Zocor, and it is now available as a generic from several suppliers. It’s also an active ingredient in several other cholesterol-lowering drugs, including the Merck’s Vytorin (ezetimibe and simvastatin) and Simcor (niacin and simvastatin), marketed by Abbott and Solvay Pharmaceuticals. All formulations of Simcor contain only 20 mg of simvastatin, though Vytorin is available with 80 mg, according to an FDA database.

“Review of simvastatin is part of an ongoing FDA effort to evaluate the risk of statin-associated muscle injury and to provide that information to the public as it becomes available,” FDA Division of Metabolism and Endocrinology Products deputy director Eric Colman said in a statement. “It’s important for patients and healthcare professionals to consider all the potential risks and known benefits of any drug before deciding on any one therapy or dose of therapy.”

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