PHARMACY

Maine Gov. LePage: People on opioids have ‘advantage’ over allergy sufferers

BY Brian Berk

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine Gov. Paul LePage said during a radio call-in show that people on opioids have an “advantage” of receiving free Narcan shots versus those who have allergies and have to pay for their medications.

According to The Associated Press, LePage specifically referred to a letter he received from a dad whose family members have to carry allergy pens for reactions to peanuts and bee stings.

People with allergies have "done nothing" but have to pay for it, the governor said during the radio show.

The Republican governor, who has served in his position since 2011, has discussed a bill to fine local governments that don't charge individuals who repeatedly overdose for the cost of administering opioid antidotes, and has opposed attempts to increase access to the drug, which he's said normalizes heroin use, the news outlet reported.

"The governor feels strongly that while we must do all we can to help those addicted to opioids overcome their addiction, they must also have some skin in the game," said David Sorensen, LePage's senior adviser, in a separate statement.

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Express Scripts launches discount drug service

BY Brian Berk

ST. LOUIS — Express Scripts on Monday launched Inside Rx, a new, partially owned subsidiary that applies Express Scripts' purchasing power to expand affordable access to brand and generic medications for patients in need. According to Express Scripts, Inside Rx has partnered with GoodRx to deliver average savings of 34% on prescription medications for the uninsured and those who experience high out-of-pocket costs for their prescription medications.

Patients can visit www.goodrx/brand or download the GoodRx mobile app to instantly access significant savings for more than 40 popular brand name drugs that treat diabetes, asthma, heart disease, depression, gastrointestinal disorders, gout, and other common illnesses. Eligible patients simply present the discount via card or mobile app at one of 40,000 pharmacies nationwide, including CVS, the Kroger Family of Pharmacies and Walgreens. There are no membership fees or costs to obtain savings.

"We have a unique opportunity to put medicine within reach of those who need it. By practicing pharmacy smarter, we are bringing together companies across healthcare to truly deliver value," said Express Scripts president and CEO Tim Wentworth. "We are proud to power a novel solution that makes brand-name medicines more affordable and accessible, particularly for people without prescription coverage."

The program represents a cross-industry collaboration among Inside Rx, GoodRx, participating retail pharmacies, and major pharmaceutical companies, including Boehringer Ingelheim, Eli Lilly, Lundbeck, Novo Nordisk, Sanofi, Takeda Pharmaceuticals and Teva Pharmaceuticals. 

"The GoodRx / Inside Rx program is a simple and effective way to help millions of Americans who struggle to afford their prescriptions," said Doug Hirsch, co-founder and co-CEO of GoodRx. "GoodRx is proud to partner with Inside Rx to reduce the cost of diabetes, asthma and other important drugs that patients need."

"We are pleased to participate in Express Scripts' new program that will play an important role in helping under-insured and uninsured patients receive the medicines they need at a price they can afford," said Brad Fluegel, SVP, chief healthcare commercial market development officer, Walgreens.

"Kroger is excited to partner with Express Scripts on this new program that creates affordability and expands access to medications for many of our patients," said Colleen Lindholz, president of pharmacy and The Little Clinic, The Kroger Co.

Inside Rx is not insurance, and is not available to members enrolled in government-sponsored health programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid or Tricare. 

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What the AHCA could mean for pharmacy

BY David Salazar

On Monday, the Senate took up the issue of health care reform with the promise to start from scratch in the aftermath of the May 4 passage of the American Health Care Act in the House of Representatives. Even as the work remains ahead, one of the questions facing the industry is what impact it would have if the version that passed the House became law.

One of the key aspects of the version of AHCA is that pharmacists are largely absent, in the view of the National Community Pharmacists Association. When the bill passed the House, NCPA CEO Doug Hoey released a statement highlighting the “substantial revisions” that the legislation would require for it to pass the Senate.

"House Republicans considered and passed this legislation under a process that greatly limited what provisions and policies could be considered germane, excluding virtually any of interest to community pharmacies,” Hoey said. “Lawmakers intend to develop subsequent health care legislation to fill in the gaps. NCPA and its members will continue to engage lawmakers to champion priorities for community pharmacies during this process.”

As the Senate takes up the task of drafting their own legislation and eventually passing it, stakeholders are interested in staying involved in the process and making sure that pharmacy is represented in the bill,

“Efforts to reform the Affordable Care Act remain a moving target, and it is widely accepted that this will remain a highly dynamic situation among the House, the Senate and the administration,“ the National Association of Chain Drug Stores told Drug Store News. “Just know that NACDS is advocating every step of the way, particularly to advance the concept of a strong pharmacy benefit in Medicaid, Medicare and other programs. In fact, we are sharing with members of Congress the opinion research that we announced recently. This research shows strong public appreciation and support for the accessibility of pharmacies and for pharmacy benefits in these programs.”

The Kaiser Family Foundation, in a comparison between the Affordable Care Act and the AHCA, notes that the AHCA implements a per-person cap on Medicaid spending on the elderly, blind and disabled, children, adults covered if a state decides to offer a Medicaid expansion and other adults based on 2016 expenditures. This could have an impact in the pharmacy, as according to the QuintilesIMS Institute’s latest report on the use of medicines in 2016, Medicaid prescriptions made up 14.1% of all prescriptions dispensed last year. 
 
Manufacturers are focused on making sure patients retain access to medication by remaining involved in the process. 
 

“Our response on the bill is ensuring patients have access to the medicines they need is our top priority,” Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America senior director of public affairs Holly Campbell told Drug Store News. “As Congress considers reforms to our health care system, we look forward to continuing to work with them to enhance the competitive market, ensure patients have access to affordable health care and foster the continued development of new innovative medicines.”

The AHCA could play a key role in freeing up manufacturer resources for innovation, as it repeals the Affordable Care Act’s planned $13.9 billion pharmaceutical manufacturer tax for 2017, as well as 2018’s planned $4.1 billion tax and the $2.8 billion tax planned for 2019 and beyond, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Additionally, the AHCA repeals the annual fee associated with Medicare paid by drug makers starting this year.

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