NACDS: Capitol Hill meetings to focus on PBM tactics, ramifications
WASHINGTON — The National Association of Chain Drug Stores is heading to Capitol Hill next week for its RxImpact Day event, during which it will press its case against the proposed ESI-Medco merger.
“No issues are higher on NACDS’ list of priorities than urging members of Congress to express to the Federal Trade Commission their concerns and opposition to the proposed Express Scripts and Medco merger, and advocating for legislation to regulate pharmacy benefit managers,” stated NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson.
On March 21 and 22, NACDS members, pharmacy students and faculty, and state pharmacy association representatives will travel to Washington D.C., for NACDS RxImpact Day. According to NACDS, the message of approximately 250 congressional meetings will focus on public policy issues that can either leverage the unsurpassed value of neighborhood pharmacies to advance patient care, or that could alternatively hinder the health of patients, employment and community economies alike.
Pharmacy benefit managers are pharmaceutical insurance middlemen, and NACDS has maintained that the merger of Express Scripts and Medco would create a dominant force that would be “too big to play fair.” NACDS notes that unchecked PBM practices, which would be made uncontrollably worse by the merger, jeopardize access to neighborhood pharmacies.
“In addition to consumer groups, antitrust watchdogs, employers and others, 68 members of Congress already have expressed concerns to the FTC about the proposed merger,” Anderson stated. “In the name of local access to pharmacy patient care, to jobs and to economic vitality, we anticipate increasing that number next week.”
Chains operate more than 40,000 pharmacies and employ more than 3.5 million employees, including 130,000 pharmacists. NACDS analysis of economic data shows that every $1 spent in retail stores with pharmacies creates a ripple effect of $1.81 throughout other segments of the economy. These segments include agriculture, manufacturing, construction, transportation and warehousing, information technology, real estate, educational services and more. The total economic impact of stores with pharmacies equals $1.76 trillion, or 12% of the gross domestic product.
“NACDS members have a presence, and neighborhood pharmacists live and work, in every state and in every Congressional District,” Anderson noted. “Policy-makers have very real choices to make: whether to allow neighborhood pharmacies to sustain as key employers and economic contributors and as the most accessible element of healthcare delivery, or whether to fall into the trap of inaction or damaging policies that jeopardize pharmacy viability.”
In addition to emphasizing the proposed PBM mega-merger, NACDS will urge support for the Pharmacy Competition and Consumer Choice Act of 2011 (H.R. 1971 and S. 1058). The legislation, co-sponsored by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., would address practices of some PBMs.
The legislation would address such issues as PBMs forcing patients to use their own mail-order operations, recouping claims that already have been paid to pharmacies as a result of unfair audits, providing no appeals process for their decisions, requiring documentation that pharmacies are prohibited by law from providing and switching patients to more expensive medications, according to NACDS.
“I will tell you right now that the PBM lobby will respond as it always does, by alleging cost-savings beyond policy-makers’ wildest dreams. But the fact is that lack of transparency provides no credible information about actual savings to consumers and employers versus increased profitability for the PBMs as a result of these tactics. NACDS is calling on Congress to put a stop to the spin and to these practices and to prevent jeopardy to neighborhood economies and to neighborhood pharmacy access,” Anderson stated.
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Pfizer, Biocon end biosimilar insulin deal
NEW YORK — Pfizer and Indian drug maker Biocon have ended a partnership that the companies started in 2010 to develop biosimilar treatments for diabetes, the companies said.
The companies terminated the deal, which would have been worth up to $350 million, to develop biosimilar versions of insulin and insulin analog products, with Biocon manufacturing the products and Pfizer would market them. As of Monday, all rights that Biocon licensed to Pfizer, including to products distributed under the Univia and Glarvia brands, reverted back to Biocon, India’s largest biotechnology company.
"Biocon remains committed to delivering its biosimilar insulins portfolio to global markets in its endeavor to make a difference to diabetic patients across emerging and developed economies," Biocon chairman and managing director Kiran Mazumdar Shaw said. "Biocon will continue to work with its existing partners in several markets and will pursue a commercial strategy based on its own and through new alliances in other markets."
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At least one-third of rogue pharmacies under one domain name registrar, report finds
NEW YORK — One-third or more of rogue online pharmacy domains are under one Internet registrar, with two registrars accounting for more than half, according to a new report.
LegitScript, a Portland, Ore.-based company that verifies online pharmacies, went undercover posing as an online organized crime network called "Pay-Rx.biz" and approached Internet.bs, a registrar apparently based in Panama and registered in the Bahamas, saying it was interested in having Internet.bs host its illegal online pharmacies after the Food and Drug Administration, Interpol and other regulatory authorities had shut down its previous operation. LegitScript went to great lengths to show the illegality of Pay-Rx.biz’s business — including saying that it was selling such controlled medications as oxycodone without prescription, that it was selling counterfeit medicines — to the point that it "literally ran out" of ways to show how its business was illicit.
Nevertheless, LegitScript said, Internet.bs was "glad to help" and provided its president’s personal cell phone number, showing how Pay-Rx.biz could protect the more than 175 domains it registered — such as Oxycodonenoprescription.com and Noprescriptionrequired.biz — in addition to saying it would ignore notifications from regulators. It also said it would ignore alerts from LegitScript itself, which had tried to alert Internet.bs to its hosting of rogue pharmacies in 2010, but its notifications were ignored.
According to the report, Internet.bs, one of about 450 domain name registrars accredited by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, accounts for 0.2% of the total registered domains online, but between 32.9% and 44% of the rogue online pharmacy domains, not including the ones that LegitScript registered. Another registrar, ABSystems, has an additional 17.3% of rogue pharmacy domain names. Out of all the accredited registrars, 20 account for 81% of rogue online pharmacies, according to the report.
Following the release of the report, Internet.bs announced on its website that it had suspended 176 "illegal pharma domains explicitly setup by unscrupulous and pretend-to-be customers trying to fool regulators and circumvent applicable pharma regulations," listing the same domain names that LegitScript had registered. Still, Pharm4All.com, a separate rogue pharmacy that the LegitScript report named as using Internet.bs’ services and is also on the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy’s "Not Recommended Sites" list, remained active as of Monday evening.
Pharmacy is more than a business. If there are rogue pharmacies domains being hosted over internet freely, then it is the topic of worry. Strict action must be taken against offenders and those domain registrars. There are more than 10,000 drug prescriptions on internet and 97% out them do not follow the standard parameters of “United state pharmacy law and practice standard”. At present ICANN has launched .pharmacy domain to distinguish legal pharmacy products and services from rogue sellers. In addition to this, this domain helps to grow a brand and make its identification as an elite group.
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Internet.bs = a very appropriate name for the company!