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NCPA favors Medicare Prescription Drug Program Integrity and Transparency Act

BY Michael Johnsen

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Bipartisan legislation that would let pharmacists devote more time to Medicare beneficiaries and less to adjudicating claims with pharmacy benefit management firms was introduced in the U.S. Senate and won the backing of the National Community Pharmacists Association earlier this week.

"Patients trust independent community pharmacists for the expert medication counseling and other services that they provide, such as immunizations and diabetes counseling," stated Douglas Hoey, NCPA CEO. "Unfortunately, these … small business owners face an increasing number of indefensible barriers to providing the level of care that their patients deserve and have come to expect. Often this is due to the unchecked authority that pharmacy benefit managers have over community pharmacies," Hoey said. "This bipartisan legislation would achieve a more balanced business relationship between PBMs and community pharmacies and thereby allow pharmacists to continue putting patients first in health care."

The Medicare Prescription Drug Program Integrity and Transparency Act (S. 867) was introduced by Sens. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and Jerry Moran, R-Kan. It would focus pharmacy audits on uncovering actual fraud and abuse, bring transparency to generic drug reimbursement rates and give Medicare beneficiaries additional privacy and other protections.

"When a pharmacist gives a patient the right medication at the right time, at the right cost, it should not be a punishable offense," Hoey said. "Audits, of course, must be conducted, but they should not be exploited by middlemen at the expense of Medicare and the taxpayer," Hoey said. "This bill [will] address some of the most challenging roadblocks to pharmacists providing even better patient care. Community pharmacists should get engaged at the grassroots level and encourage their members of Congress to support this legislation."


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Costco comps increase 4% in April

BY Alaric DeArment

ISSAQUAH, Wash. — Costco Wholesale Corp.’s sales grew 7% in April over April 2012, the club retailer said Thursday.

Costco reported sales of $7.98 billion for the four weeks that ended Sunday, compared with $7.48 billion during the same period last year. Sales for the 35-week period that ended Sunday were $69 billion, 9% higher than the $63.59 billion recorded last year.

Sales in the United States at continuously open stores since last April increased by 4%, while same-store sales for the 35 weeks that ended Sunday increased 6%.

The results, while positive, were relatively low compared with financial analysts’ expectations. In a note to investors Thursday, Citi analyst Deborah Weinswig noted that the 4% increase in same-store sales were "at the low-end" of Citi’s forecast of 4-6% growth and below an overall consensus of 4.9% growth, while they also took a 2% hit from external factors like gas prices and currency exchange rates. Weinswig wrote that sales were expected to remain slow this month due to unfavorable weather conditions.


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New Michigan store marks major milestone for Meijer

BY Alaric DeArment

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Meijer will open its 200th store next week, the mass merchandise retailer said Thursday.

Calling the opening of the Swartz Creek, Mich., store a "milestone," the company said it will open on May 16. The store is the first of six new stores the chain plans to open this year in Michigan, Indiana and Illinois.

The 190,000-sq. ft. store will include a full-service drive-through pharmacy offering free generic antibiotics, prenatal vitamins and drugs for diabetes and high cholesterol. Other items will include groceries, a gas station, pet items, general merchandise and others. The store will also sell locally grown produce.


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