PHARMACY

HHS to state Medicaid programs: Offer more generic drugs

BY Alaric DeArment

WASHINGTON — The Department of Health and Human Services is encouraging state governments to save money with generic drugs.

In a document released Thursday, HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius urged all 50 state governors to increase the use of generic drugs in their state Medicaid programs.

“By managing pharmacy benefits like other, more successful programs, governors can cut billions in Medicaid without cutting benefits to patients or payments to doctors and hospitals,” said Mark Merritt, president and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, a trade group representing the pharmacy benefit management industry.

The group said the next step would be for state Medicaid programs to stop paying pharmacies more than Medicare and other programs.

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PHARMACY

Pharmacy lobbying groups back MTM Empowerment Act of 2011

BY Allison Cerra

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — New legislation that supports medication therapy management, which is known to improve patient health outcomes and lower healthcare costs, has been endorsed by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association.

The Medication Therapy Management Empowerment Act of 2011, which was introduced by Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., builds on legislation that Hagan authored in 2010 and also was co-sponsored by Sens. Al Franken, D-Minn., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Tim Johnson, D-S.D.

The legislation supports MTM, a professional service offered by pharmacists and other qualified health practitioners that helps ensure medications are taken appropriately and can help patients — particularly Medicare beneficiaries and those with such chronic diseases as hypertension and diabetes — continue adhering to their medications, NACDS and NCPA said in a joint statement Thursday.

"This commonsense legislation can help patients understand the importance of taking their medications as prescribed, which can lead to improved health, as well as lowering their healthcare costs,” NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson said.

Added NCPA EVP and CEO Kathleen Jaeger, "Patients rely on their trusted, community pharmacists for expert medication counseling and cost-saving services. Nowhere is that truer than with MTM."

A July 2009 report by the New England Health Institute estimated that the overall cost of poor medication adherence, measured in otherwise avoidable medical spending, is as much as $290 billion per year, or 13% of total healthcare expenditures.

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PHARMACY

GPhA, PhRMA weigh in on patent-reform legislation

BY Alaric DeArment

WASHINGTON — A bill that would make the biggest changes to patent laws in more than half a century has drawn mixed responses from the drug industry.

The bill, S. 23, The Patent Reform Act of 2011, sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., would make the first significant changes to patent laws in 60 years.

The Generic Pharmaceutical Association and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the respective lobbies for the generic and branded drug industries, both praised the bill on the whole, but the GPhA had reservations about a provision that it said would weaken the inequitable conduct clause.

Currently, a patent can be ruled unenforceable in a court of law if the court determines that the patent’s holder intentionally withheld information or deceived the Patent and Trademark Office in any way. For the generic drug industry, this has opened the opportunity for numerous challenges to patents covering branded drugs, allowing generic drug makers to launch their versions of the drugs ahead of patent expiration.

“Weakening current inequitable conduct standards will simply result in providing innovators with a greater incentive to be less than honest when seeking patents, thereby making it harder for companies to challenge dubious patents and bring affordable generic medicines to consumers,” a statement from the GPhA read.

Meanwhile, the PhRMA did not mention the inequitable conduct clause, but spoke in favor of the bill nonetheless. “Senator Leahy’s patent-reform bill would strengthen the patent system while protecting patent owners and maintaining incentives for innovation,” PhRMA SVP Wes Metheny said. “The bill balances the diverse interests of various stakeholders across American business sectors while maintaining strong and reliable intellectual property protection.”

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