PHARMACY

NACDS applauds state Medicaid assistance bill, DME accreditation provision

BY Allison Cerra

ALEXANDRIA, Va. The National Association of Chain Drug Stores lauded two bills that seek to increase federal funding assistance for state Medicaid programs for six months and would remedy accreditation requirements for pharmacies providing durable medical equipment through Medicare, respectively.

In a letter to Senate Health Care Subcommittee chairman John Rockefeller, D-W.Va., NACDS is hoping the legislation will be included as an amendment to healthcare reform. Rockefeller’s bill would extend until June 2011 the temporary increase in the federal medical assistance percentage that originally was included in 2009’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“NACDS emphasizes the importance of patients’ taking their medications appropriately. Extending the current FMAP increase means states are less likely to cut their Medicaid program benefits and jeopardize the ability of our most vulnerable patients to stay on their medication therapies,” said NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson.

NACDS also has been working to address the Medicare accreditation and surety bond requirements for pharmacies providing DME. A provision in the Democratic Senate jobs bill would provide relief from the accreditation requirements.

“As the face of neighborhood health care, pharmacies should not be subject to duplicative, unnecessary requirements that have the effect of reducing DME access for patients,” Anderson said. “This issue was among the most frequently raised topics at the NACDS Regional Chain Conference this week, and it remains a top priority for this association.”

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FDA approves expanded use of Crestor

BY Alaric DeArment

WILMINGTON, Del. The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new use for a cardiovascular drug made by AstraZeneca, the drug maker announced Monday.

The FDA approved Crestor (rosuvastatin calcium) for reducing the risk of stroke, heart attack and surgical restoration of blood flow – known as arterial revascularization – in patients without obvious coronary heart disease but an increased risk of cardiovascular disease based on age, presence of risk factors for cardiovascular disease and quantities of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein in the blood of 2-mg per liter or more. Crestor already had approval for treating other cardiovascular health risks when used along with changes in diet.

“Not only is this approval a significant milestone for AstraZeneca, but it is also important for the patients who could now benefit from Crestor therapy under this approved indication,” AstraZeneca chief medical officer Howard Hutchinson stated.

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CMS: U.S. health spending hits $2.5 trillion as Rx costs reach $246 billion

BY Jim Frederick

WASHINGTON Healthcare spending in the United States climbed 5.7% to $2.5 trillion in 2009, despite the impact of a struggling economy, according to projections issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and published in the journal Health Affairs.

Healthcare expenditures now comprise 17.3% of the nation’s total gross domestic product, CMS estimated. Over the next decade, the agency predicted, health spending will jump at an average rate of 6.1% a year, versus a projected average annual gain of 4.4% for the overall GDP.

With more Americans losing their insurance and Medicaid enrollments rising, public spending for health care will continue to grow faster than health spending in the private sector, the government predicted.

The rise in total health costs was not quite matched by the growth of prescription drug spending, CMS economists estimated. Total prescription drug spending rose a projected 5.2% last year, the agency reported in Health Affairs, to a U.S. total of $246.3 billion.

That marks an accelerating trend for drug spending, according to the journal, which cited “an increase in per person use of drugs, driven by the need for antiviral drugs to treat H1N1, and by higher price growth in brand-name drugs.”

Long-term growth of both overall healthcare expenditures and the prescription drug market will continue at a steady clip, government analysts predict. CMS pegs total drug expenditures at $457.8 billion by 2019, Health Affairs reported, “with spending growth expected to accelerate over the projection period due primarily to increases in drug prices.”

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