PHARMACY

Major pharm co. and its subsidiary settle fraud case

BY Allison Cerra

BOSTON Bristol-Myers Squibb and one of its subsidiaries have to resolve civil suits for their alleged fraudulent drug marketing and pricing schemes, the Boston Globe reported Saturday.

The pharmaceutical company and its subsidiary Apothecon, the settlement has indicated, convinced various physicians and health care providers to recommend their drugs to patients. If they complied, they received several forms of payment, including luxury resort vacations. The agreement requires the two companies to pay the government a sum of upward $515 million.

“Patients are entitled to unbiased decision-making from their physicians and should not have to worry that financial inducements or lavish entertainment have influenced their physicians’ prescribing choices,” Sullivan said.

According to the prosecution, Bristol-Myers Squibb promoted the sale of Abilify, an anti-psychotic drug, for pediatric use and to treat dementia-related psychosis. Although the FDA has approved Abilify to treat adult schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, it was not to be used the way it was marketed by Bristol-Myers Squibb. The FDA has required that the package for Abilify carry a “black box” warning distinctively pertaining the use for treatment of dementia-related psychosis only.

Although the settlement was not finalized until the past few days, Bristol-Myers Squibb announced a tenet agreement this past December.

The company said in its annual report to the Securities Exchange Commission in February that it had reached an agreement in principle for a settlement of $499 million. The remaining upward $16 million covers interest fees.

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PHARMACY

Senate approves equal pharmacy access for military and their families

BY Allison Cerra

ALEXANDRIA, Va. The National Association of Chain Drug Stores issued a letter to a New Jersey senator yesterday for his support in their fight to prevent an increase in co-payments for military beneficiaries.

Senator Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., was thanked for sponsoring an amendment to prohibit increased co-payments to those beneficiaries using retail pharmacies in the TRICARE health benefits program. TRICARE is the military health program that provides care to over 9 million uniformed personnel, their families and retired military worldwide.

“Keeping equal access to chain community pharmacy for our U.S. military and their families is a priority for NACDS,” stated NACDS President and chief executive officer, Steve Anderson, “We applaud Senator Lautenberg’s leadership in introducing the amendment, which shows great support for our nation’s military. We look forward to continuing to work with the Senator and his colleagues to pass H.R. 1585, and continue to develop policy solutions that maximize competition and protect choice for TRICARE beneficiaries.”

The amendment was subsequently adopted as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2008 (H.R. 1585), which is currently being debated in the Senate. The amendment will ensure that TRICARE patients would not be inclined to use mail order rather than local retail pharmacies because of co-payment increase.

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Senate passes bill for tamper-resistant prescription delay

BY Jim Frederick

WASHINGTON Now, it’s up to the White House.

Pharmacy leaders breathed a cautious sigh of relief today with passage in the U.S. Senate last night of a bill that would delay for six months a looming requirement that all Medicaid prescriptions to be written on tamper-resistant prescription paper. But with no time left to lose before the Oct. 1 deadline originally imposed by Congress for implementation of the new prescription pad rule, leaders at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association immediately set their sights on convincing President Bush to sign the measure into law before Monday.

Following passage in the House of a companion measure, the Senate on Thursday night approved H.R. 3668, extending several health care programs set to expire Oct. 1. Of critical interest to pharmacy and physician groups, it also allows for a six-month delay in the tamper-proof mandate to give both professions—and state Medicaid administrators nationwide—a chance to obtain the needed pads and adapt to the new requirement.

The original mandate was written into an Iraq war funding bill with little notice, requiring all Medicaid prescriptions to be written on special tamper-resistant pads beginning Oct. 1. The rapidly approaching deadline raised alarm bells among dozens of pharmacy, physician and patient advocacy groups in recent weeks, and spawned an increasingly intense lobbying campaign to turn aside the regulation.

“Community pharmacists are aware of the problems associated across the country with Medicaid fraud,” said Bruce Roberts, executive vice president and chief executive officer of NCPA. “With a stroke of the President’s pen, the health care community will have adequate lead time to make the use of tamper-resistant pads a reality. I urge President Bush to move swiftly to approve this delay before the October 1st effective date of the law.”

NACDS president and chief executive officer Steven Anderson praised the bipartisan leadership of Ohio Senators George Voinovich, a Republican, and Democrat Sherrod Brown, for addressing the tamper-resistant requirement in a stand-alone bill earlier this week—a bill that was superseded by the extension legislation passed last night. “The determined efforts of Senator Brown, Senator Voinovich, as well as Senate Leadership, were crucial to achieving passage of this six-month delay.

“We greatly appreciate their support for community pharmacy and the Medicaid patients we serve,” Anderson said. “We also applaud the support of Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and ranking member Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who supported inclusion of the delay in the final health extenders legislation.”

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