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HHS announces 106 new ACOs, including three affiliated with Walgreens

BY Michael Johnsen

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Advocare Walgreens Well Network, Diagnostic Clinic Walgreens Well Network and Scott & White Walgreens Well Network have been selected as three of 106 new Accountable Care Organizations in Medicare, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced Thursday.

“Accountable Care Organizations save money for Medicare and deliver higher-quality care to people with Medicare,” Sebelius said. “Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more doctors and hospitals are working together to give people with Medicare the high-quality care they expect and deserve.”

More and more of that care is taking place in more convenient settings like retail pharmacy, Kermit Crawford, Walgreens’ president pharmacy, health and wellness, shared with reporters during a press conference following the company’s annual shareholder meeting Wednesday. "One of the things that I think about is how do we expand into additional retail healthcare services, preventative services," he said. That kind of mindset really all started with flu shots, he added. "Flu shots gave us the confidence that patients would allow pharmacists to do more than dispense pills. Now we have the confidence to bring our pharmacists out from behind the counter where they can actually engage patients on consultant type services, medication therapy management, health testing as well as around [immunizations]."

Crawford noted that Walgreens, across all of its platforms to include Take Care Health clinics and its specialty and infusion pharmacy operations, is focused on expanding the purview of what many consider retail pharmacy today. "As we expand beyond traditional preventative healthcare services, it’s all designed to [compliment our core pharmacy business]," he said. "What you’re seeing are pharmacists are playing a greater role in the accountable care network as a part of the Affordable Care Act," Crawford added. "If you think about the reason for healthcare reform, it is about providing convenient access to affordable care. … We feel we are really aligned with healthcare reform." 

The ACO group HHS announced today also includes 15 Advance Payment Model ACOs, physician-based or rural providers who would benefit from greater access to capital to invest in staff, electronic health record systems or other infrastructure required to improve care coordination. Medicare will recoup advance payments over time through future shared savings. In addition to these ACOs, last year CMS launched the Pioneer ACO program for large provider groups able to take greater financial responsibility for the costs and care of their patients over time. In total, Medicare’s ACO partners will serve more than 4 million beneficiaries nationwide. 

The new ACOs include a diverse cross-section of physician practices across the country. Roughly half of all ACOs are physician-led organizations that serve fewer than 10,000 beneficiaries. Approximately 20% of ACOs include community health centers, rural health centers and critical access hospitals that serve low-income and rural communities. 

ACOs must meet quality standards to ensure that savings are achieved through improving care coordination and providing care that is appropriate, safe and timely. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has established 33 quality measures on care coordination and patient safety, appropriate use of preventive health services, improved care for at-risk populations, and patient and caregiver experience of care. Federal savings from this initiative are up to $940 million over four years.

 

 

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Following sale, Supervalu’s remaining businesses will be ‘in great shape’ CEO says

BY Michael Johnsen

MINNEAPOLIS — The sale of 877 stores to Cerberus Capital Management will help Supervalu re-energize its remaining three businesses, current Supervalu president and CEO Wayne Sales told analysts Thursday morning. "What this means … is the company is smaller," Sales said. "And we exit with a much smaller balance sheet to ensure liquidity going forward," he said. This sale will not be followed by any further divestitures, Sales said. "We’re not shopping any other assets."

Most important, Sales said, it provides for some stability to the company’s wholesaler business. "When you take Supervalu apart and you look at the most recent results … it provided some uncertainty to independent grocers," Sales said. The improved liquidity should settle those uncertainties. Save-A-Lot is still the jewel in the crown for Supervalu, perhaps more so now than before. "That will be a huge growth opportunity for us," Sales said. The company will focus on simplifying operations across Save-A-Lot and improving its private label mix from 57% to 70%, Sales said. 

And that leaves Supervalu in a better competitive position, Sales suggested. "The retail stores themselves are in great shape," he said. "[Across our] distribution centers, we have significant capacity to support our growth, [and] we see growth capital being placed in [our Save-A-Lot] businesses."

While the focus of Thursday’s conference call focused on the particulars of the transaction, Supervalu did report third quarter fiscal 2013 net sales of $7.9 billion, down 5% as compared to the year-ago period. The decrease in net sales primarily reflected a decline in identical store sales of 4.5% across the company’s retail food operations Retail Food and a same-store sales decline of 4.1% across its Save-A-Lot network. 

Third quarter retail food net sales were $5 billion, a decline of 7.4%, primarily reflecting an identical store sales decline of 4.5% and the disposition of a majority of the company’s retail fuel centers, which contributed $112 million in sales in the third quarter of fiscal 2012.

Third quarter Save-A-Lot net sales totaled $966 million, a decrease of 1.6%, reflecting the impact from network identical store sales of negative 4.1% and recently announced store closures partially offset by the benefit from 20 net new stores being operated at the end of the third quarter of fiscal 2013.

And Supervalu’s independent business wholesaler net sales were relatively flat at $2 billion for the third quarter. 

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FDA calls for lower dosage in some insomnia drugs

BY DSN STAFF

SILVER SPRING, Md. — The Food and Drug Administration is ordering the makers of several sleep drugs to lower the recommended dosage due to the risk that they can impair patients the morning after, the agency said Thursday.

The FDA announced that it was requiring the manufacturers of drugs containing the active ingredient zolpidem to lower the current recommended dosage in light of new data showing that the morning after use, the drug can remain in the blood in sufficient quantities to impair activities that require alertness, such as driving.

According to the agency’s recommendation, the dosage for women should be lowered from 10 mg to 5 mg for immediate-release drugs and from 12.5 mg to 6.25 mg for extended-release formulations. For men, doctors should consider prescribing these lower doses, the FDA said. The higher and lower doses are both currently available on the market.

"To decrease the potential risk of impairment with all insomnia drugs, healthcare professionals should prescribe, and patients should take, the lowest dose capable of treating the patient’s insomnia," FDA Office of Drug Evaluation I director Ellis Unger said. "Patients who must drive in the morning or perform some other activity requiring full alertness should talk to their healthcare professional about whether their sleep medicine is appropriate."

Zolpidem is the active ingredient of Sanofi’s Ambien and Ambien CR, Meda Pharmaceuticals’ Edluar and NovaDel Pharma’s Zolpimist, as well as several generics.


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