Merck seeks FDA approval for Saflutan
WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. — The Food and Drug Administration has accepted an approval application from Merck for a drug to treat eye diseases, Merck said Wednesday.
Merck is seeking approval for Saflutan (tafluprost) ophthalmic solution, an investigational drug for relieving eye pressure in patients with glaucoma and ocular hypertension.
“Merck has been providing new therapies to help treat eye diseases for more than 50 years,” said Joseph Markoff, Merck global director for scientific affairs in ophthalmology. “The acceptance of the [new drug approval] submission for tafluprost is an important milestone in our effort to bring forward an additional therapeutic option for patients with primary, open-angle glaucoma or ocular hypertension.”
NCPA’s Jaeger responds to federal report identifying Medicare Part D overpayments
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A report by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General found that beneficiary premiums in the Medicare Part D prescription drug program are higher than than they should be, due to overpayments to plan sponsors, including pharmacy benefit managers.
In response to this, the National Community Pharmacists Association’s EVP and CEO, Kathleen Jaeger, underscored the need for greater PBM transparency to assure patient access to their pharmacies of choice and healthcare services are preserved, calling the report a "wake-up call to Congress."
“When tolerated in Medicare or other health plans, overpayments to PBMs needlessly drive up healthcare costs," Jaeger said. "They also create artificial, inflated pressure that can lead employers and other plan sponsors to consider restricting patient access to their community pharmacist or even requiring the use of mail order when other cost-saving methods are available, such as increasing appropriate use of generic medicines. Community pharmacists lower costs for patients and health plans by consistently dispensing generic drugs more frequently than PBM-owned, mail-order pharmacies."
Walgreens says farewell to PBM business
DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreens on Wednesday sold its pharmacy benefit management business, Walgreens Health Initiatives, to Catalyst Health Solutions in a cash transaction for $525 million, subject to certain adjustments. The transaction is structured as an acquisition of all of the capital stock of WHI.
“With nearly 7,700 drug stores as our center of gravity, we are focused more than ever on delivering convenient, affordable, high-quality pharmacy, health and wellness solutions, and on enhancing our full scope of services to become America’s first choice for health and daily living needs,” stated Greg Wasson, Walgreens president and CEO.
Walgreens will retain and look to continue growing its specialty pharmacy and mail-service businesses, and will be providing those services in support of Walgreens, WHI and Catalyst patients. “Our specialty, infusion and mail-pharmacy services are an important extension of our drug stores, retail clinics, worksite health centers and medical facility pharmacies,” Wasson said. “Together, these services and locations are part of our industry-leading 8,000-plus points of care, and are on the front line of helping millions of patients live well, stay well and get well.”
Completion of the transaction is subject to customary conditions, including receipt of regulatory approvals and clearances. The transaction is expected to close by the end of June 2011.
Under a transition services agreement, Walgreens will provide certain services to Catalyst after closing to facilitate a smooth transition for WHI’s existing customers and patients. Walgreens expects these costs to be approximately $40 million and expects to record a gain on the sale of WHI upon closing, which the company believes will offset any one-time or transition costs associated with the transaction in the current fiscal year. The company anticipated that the transaction will be neutral to earnings per share in fiscal 2012.
By acquiring WHI, Catalyst’s PBM membership will increase to more than 18 million members. Walgreens has selected Catalyst to provide PBM and related services for Walgreens employee and retiree prescription drug plans, as well as other Walgreens programs, including the Walgreens Prescription Savings Club.
“We believe WHI’s clients and members will benefit from our sole focus on excelling in providing PBM services,” said David Blair, Catalyst CEO. “We are gaining WHI’s talented employees, who have been integral to the growth and success of the business, and are pleased to welcome them to the Catalyst team. Together, we will provide continuity for our valued customers and deliver market-leading services that will further improve health outcomes.”
For the Walgreens employees who are expected to join Catalyst as part of the transaction, Catalyst will maintain a significant presence in the Chicago area.