PHARMACY

‘Hip-hop doc’ wins flu PSA contest

BY Michael Johnsen

FAIRFAX, Va. A rhyming and rapping “hip-hop doc” will soon be reaching out to Americans around the importance of washing hands and other flu-etiquette techniques through the Department of Health and Human Services’ public-service-announcement contest.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Monday announced that Dr. John Clarke of Baldwin, N.Y., took top honors of the 2009 H1N1 PSA Contest. More than 50,000 votes were cast by Americans across the country on YouTube, Sebelius said.

“We are thrilled that so many Americans got involved in our PSA contest this summer,” stated Sebelius. “I want to congratulate Dr. Clarke, the ‘hip hop doc,’ for producing his creative and engaging video. His work will reach millions of Americans this flu season to remind them how to stay healthy.”

Clarke will receive a $2,500 cash prize and his ad will be broadcast on national television. The announcement was made at a What To About the Flu town hall meeting held by Obama administration officials with college students and faculty at George Mason University.

“The PSA contest has been an excellent way for us to get the public’s help in spreading the word about H1N1 prevention. We had several outstanding videos and I applaud everyone who submitted an entry. Our winner, Dr. Clarke, combined good music with good science in a way that we hope will help keep people safe and healthy this flu season,” added Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

In July, the Department of Health and Human Services teamed up with the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Education to launch a national public service advertising campaign designed to encourage American children and families to practice healthy habits and to take steps to prevent the spread of the 2009 H1N1 flu virus.

Over 240 videos were submitted by the August deadline, after which a panel of experts narrowed the field to 10 finalists. Over the last two weeks, Americans weighed in to vote for their favorite PSA on YouTube.  In the winning video, Dr. Clarke performed an original rap on how to prevent the spread of the flu. Dr. Clarke is the medical director for the Long Island Railroad, and his PSA was videotaped at the Mineola, N.Y., railroad station.

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Former Watson executive returns to co., appointed EVP global brands

BY Alaric DeArment

MORRISTOWN, N.J. A generic pharmaceutical company has appointed a new executive to its branded drug division.

Watson Pharmaceuticals announced Monday the appointment of G. Frederick Wilkinson as EVP global brands. In the new position, Wilkinson will be responsible for “all aspects” of Watson’s global brand pharmaceutical business, including brand product development, global sales and marketing and coordinating brand product business development activities, as well as overseeing efforts by the company to develop biologics.

“Fred returns to Watson with an extraordinary record of accomplishments, having built a successful brand products business at Duramed Pharmaceuticals, the brand business of Barr Pharmaceuticals, particularly in the area of women’s healthcare,” Watson CEO Paul Bisaro said in a statement. “We will look to Fred to further strengthen our U.S. brand business, which includes a strong product portfolio supported by the recent launches of Rapaflo (silodosin) and Gelnique (oxybutynin chloride).”

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Coalition of pharmacy, health groups appeals to Congress for Medicaid relief

BY Jim Frederick

WASHINGTON Faced with a continuing threat of reimbursement cuts from the federal agency that sets Medicaid pharmacy payments, a broad coalition of pharmacy and other health industry groups again is appealing to Congress for relief.

Seven organizations — including the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the National Community Pharmacists Association, the American Pharmacists Association and the Food Marketing Institute — co-signed a letter Sept. 19 to leaders in the House and Senate. Their aim: to delay pending Medicaid cuts and to enact a more equitable formula to reimburse pharmacies for dispensing generic drugs to Medicaid beneficiaries.

Lending urgency to the appeal: the fast-approaching expiration of a temporary congressional moratorium on a plan by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to launch the new Medicaid payment plan.

CMS’ new payment model, based on the average manufacturer price of generic drugs, or AMP, will force pharmacies to dispense multiple-source drugs to Medicaid patients at a loss, the groups charged. “As you know, the AMP reimbursement system for generic drugs in Medicaid was created under the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005,” the letter reminded congressional leaders. “If fully implemented, this law will result in unsustainable cuts to pharmacy reimbursement, distortions in the prescription drug marketplace and, most importantly, could very well curtail patient access to pharmacies and cost effective drugs.”

The coalition reminded congressional leaders — who included Senate majority leader Harry Reid and minority leader Mitch McConnell, as well as House speaker Nancy Pelosi and minority leader John Boehner — that health-reform proposals already under consideration in the House and Senate include “provisions to address AMP.” However, noted the letter, “additional changes are needed to ensure that [AMP] more accurately reflects pharmacy acquisition costs.”

In addition, the groups told lawmakers, “it is extremely important to ensure that the appropriate ‘multiplier’ is used to set the Federal Upper Limits for generic-drug reimbursement.”

Different health-reform bills in the House and Senate have proposed setting Medicaid generic-drug reimbursements at 130% to 175% of the weighted average of AMP. NACDS, NCPA and the other groups appealing to Congress indicated that neither level would be enough to assure pharmacy even a break-even point in the dispensing of generics under Medicaid.

“While the Senate multiplier of 175% is preferable to the House multiplier of 130%, the coalition is reserving judgment on a specific multiplier until additional analysis makes clear that whatever multiplier is used, it assures a reimbursement level that promotes the dispensing of generics and is adequate for pharmacies to care for Medicaid patients,” noted the letter. In addition, the groups wrote, a multiplier of 300% was proposed in the Fair Medicaid Drug Payment Act during the 110th Congress, although the bill failed to gain passage.

Even after that moratorium expires Sept. 30, however, the change to a new pharmacy payment system remains on hold, thanks to an injunction issued by a federal court. Pharmacy advocates won that temporary freeze under a court order that halted implementation of AMP while CMS develops an acceptable definition of a multi-source drug on which to base the AMP payment formula.

“No matter what happens, the injunction will still be in place after Sept. 30,” explained NACDS spokeswoman Chrissy Kopple. However, she added, “The only way this is ever going to be remedied is if CMS redefines the rule, or Congress enacts new legislation.”

What’s more, Kopple said, “The court could still lift the injunction at any time,” although such a scenario isn’t likely, she added, given the uncertainly that remains over multi-source drugs.

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