PHARMACY

Merck to develop biosimilars with Parexel

BY Alaric DeArment

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. — Drug maker Merck and drug industry services organization Parexel International will work together to develop biosimilars, the two said Wednesday.

Under the agreement, Parexel will give Merck BioVentures access to clinical and regulatory services for the development of biosimilars. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

“Parexel has extensive, industry-leading experience with biosimilar development, and we truly understand the scientific complexities and regulatory pathways involved,” Parexel chairman and CEO Josef von Rickenbach said. “We are committed to working with Merck BioVentures to assist in advancing its biosimilar portfolio in this rapidly developing market segment for the benefit of patients worldwide.”

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PHARMACY

Walgreens encourages mail-order pharmacy patients to make the switch

BY Allison Cerra

DEERFIELD, Ill. — It seems that many mail-order pharmacy patients are unaware that they can receive their 90-day supply of prescription medications at community pharmacies.

Walgreens on Wednesday said that among 1,000 consumers surveyed by Echo Research between Dec. 10 and Dec. 20, 2010, nearly half of mail-order pharmacy users believed that mail is their only option to receive 90-day prescriptions. What’s more, the drug store chain noted, two-thirds of 30-day chronic medication users said they would be "extremely or very likely to switch" to 90-day supplies at their community pharmacies if given the option.

These results have prompted Walgreens to launch an initiative to encourage eligible prescription customers to transfer their prescriptions to community pharmacies. Walgreens’ Go 90 program "will inform eligible patients that they can receive a 90-day medication supply from their trusted community pharmacist," according to the drug store chain’s president and CEO, Greg Wasson.

Last year, the drug store chain announced a partnership with pharmacy benefit manager Navitus Health Solutions to help pharmacy benefit management clients save on prescription costs with a 90-day supply option at community pharmacies. The program resulted in $3.3 million in savings over a seven-month period, Walgreens said back in November.

“By offering payers programs that leverage our 90-day supply at retail capability, which reduces overall health costs and improves health outcomes, we continue to demonstrate our unique set of pharmacy, health-and-wellness solutions,” said Walgreens health-and-wellness division president Hal Rosenbluth. “As we provide additional tangible savings results from our work with clients like Navitus, we are confident that more payers and employers will welcome the opportunity to provide their members and employees the option of 90-day supplies at their community pharmacy.”

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Incentives boost compliance rates, study finds

BY Jim Frederick

NORWALK, Conn. — Looking to boost medication compliance rates for patients? Cash incentives and interactive games might be a key.

That’s the finding from HealthPrize Technologies, a Web-based software company that conducted a feasibility study gauging how incentives and games can assist in increasing medication compliance. The company found that average compliance rates for patients given those incentives was 88%.

“The results overwhelmingly showed that people are highly likely to stick with their medication regimens if they are rewarded for doing so, and if the program is engaging and fun,” noted HealthPrize. The one-month study was conducted on the company’s online platform.

The 88% adherence rate is significant, said a company representative, “considering that none of the subjects were lost to follow-up or otherwise excluded from analysis, a common occurrence in other adherence studies that often results in a bias toward artificially high compliance rates that are unrealistic in the real world,” the representative added.

HealthPrize engaged 20 subjects for the study. The patients registered online and engaged with Version 1.0 of the company’s online and mobile program for one month, reporting their compliance via the method of their choice (response to daily text or e-mail, or via their personal online HealthPrize dashboard or mobile application).

Participants earned points for self-reporting their compliance, engaging in weekly quizzes and surveys and “cracking open” daily educational “fortune cookies,” according to the company.

“Fun is not a word you hear in health care very often, and we’d like to change that,” said Katrina Firlik, co-founder and chief medical officer of HealthPrize. “The ‘Engagement Engine’ we’ve built is a comprehensive platform that leverages the combined power of incentives, education and reminders inspired by game dynamics and behavioral economics. Behavior change does not have to be a bitter pill.”

One participant, a long-time healthcare consultant, admitted that with HealthPrize he was more compliant with his medication, a statin, than he had ever been before, the company reported. “HealthPrize provided insights and facts about my condition and medication that I wasn’t aware of,” the participant said. “It helped to keep my medication top-of-mind, and it was fun earning points.”

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