PHARMACY

NCPA responds to CMS call letter

BY Alaric DeArment

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The recent call letter released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services addresses issues that can have an adverse effect on the program’s cost and quality of care, a trade group representing independent retail pharmacies said Wednesday.

Commenting on the CMS’ announcement, the National Community Pharmacists Association said it had prepared a detailed list for its members.

"NCPA staff and members will continue to work constructively with Medicare, Congress and others to maximize the health outcomes and cost efficiency of the Medicare prescription drug program," NCPA president and CEO B. Douglas Hoey said. "NCPA thanks its community pharmacist members and their patients who have weighed in with Medicare officials regarding these issues in the weeks and months leading up to the final 2014 call letter."

In particular, the NCPA said "egregious" pharmacy audits were collecting substantial amounts of money from pharmacies over "trivial clerical issues" instead of targeting a few bad actors; the group expressed agreement with Medicare’s statement that Part D plans should only recoup the full amount of a prescription claim under certain circumstances, such as a fraudulent or duplicate claim. Secondly, the group expressed support for Medicare’s statement that the best way to encourage price competition and lower costs is to allow any willing pharmacy to participate in preferred networks because preferred-pharmacy drug plans were creating concerns about access for elderly people, particularly those in rural areas, by excluding many independent pharmacies and regional chains. Thirdly, the NCPA said auto-shipping by mail-order pharmacies generated wasteful spending and inconvenience for patients, noting Medicare’s statement that pharmacies offering drug-disposal programs have documented patients turning in large quantities of unneeded medication received from auto-ship refill programs and that stronger opt-in protections may deter waste. In addition, the NCPA said, recent research has indicated that community pharmacies provide 90-day medication supplies at lower costs than mail-order pharmacies and substitute cheaper generics more often.

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Patients who adhere to generic statins have lower overall health costs compared with patients adherent to branded statins

BY Alaric DeArment

SAN DIEGO — Improving adherence to generic statin drugs for high cholesterol can reduce the costs of health care in a way that adherence to branded statins historically couldn’t, according to a new study.

The study, conducted by pharmacy benefit manager Prime Therapeutics and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, is being presented Wednesday at the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy’s 25th annual meeting and expo in San Diego. The study found that adherence to generic statin therapy resulted in lower hospitalization rates, which offset higher pharmacy costs and resulted in lower total costs of care. Previous research focusing on adherence to branded statin drugs showed adherence was associated with fewer medical problems but higher total costs, due in part to the higher costs of the drugs.

"We know adherence to statin therapy can keep patients out of the hospital, but in the past, this also came with a higher cost of care," Prime Therapeutics director of health outcomes Patrick Gleason said. "As more generic statins enter the market, we see that generic statins can not only help prevent hospitalizations, but can also improve the quality of life through fewer hospitalizations and contribute to lower overall healthcare costs."

The study was based on pharmacy and medical claims data from 1.2 million members continuously enrolled from 2007 through 2010 and included nearly 22,000 members, of whom 46% were adherent and 54% weren’t. Among the adherent patients, researchers saw a hospitalization rate of 25%, compared with 27.6% of those who were not adherent, as well as medical costs of $11,353, compared with $12,375 among the nonadherent patients. Pharmacy costs for the adherent patients were still higher than for the nonadherent patients — $4,016 and $3,079, respectively — but the total cost of care was lower: $15,290 for adherent patients and $15,451 for nonadherent patients.

 

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Walgreens reports March sales increase of 2.3%

BY Michael Johnsen

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreens on Wednesday reported March sales of $6.2 billion, an increase of 2.3%. 

March pharmacy sales increased by 0.4%, while comparable store pharmacy sales were down 1.5%. This year’s March had one additional Sunday and one fewer Thursday compared with March 2012, Walgreens reported, so pharmacy same-store sales were actually up by 1.9% when adjusted for the calendar day-shift. Calendar day shifts negatively impacted pharmacy sales in comparable stores by 340 basis points. Calendar day-shift adjusted comparable store pharmacy sales were negatively impacted by 480 basis points due to generic drug introductions in the last 12 months. 

Pharmacy sales accounted for 62.2% of Walgreens’ total sales for the month.

Prescriptions filled at comparable stores increased by 4% in March and increased 7.4% on a calendar day-shift adjusted basis. In comparison, industry-wide script growth was up 3.1% for the four weeks ended March 16, according to Credit Suisse analyst Ed Kelly citing IMS data. With the flu season past, Kelly noted, the industry "still appears to be seeing relative solid growth." 

Total front-end sales increased 5.4% compared with the same month in fiscal 2012, while comparable store front-end sales increased 4.2%. Front-end sales will have benefited from a March 31 Easter — last year Easter sales fell in April. As a result Walgreens will report combined comparable store sales for March and April with its April sales results. 

Kelly warned that front-end sales boosted by an earlier Easter may help mask underlying concerns, industry wide. "Recent commentary from multiple retailers suggest that consumers remain challenged by macro/fiscal pressures," Kelly wrote in a March 2 note. "We also believe that increased competition and promotions from value players continue to be a head-wind for the drug retail channel."

Customer traffic in comparable stores at Walgreens decreased 1.3% while basket size increased 5.5%.

Overall sales in comparable stores increased by 0.7% in March. Calendar day shifts negatively impacted total comparable sales by 210 basis points, while generic drug introductions in the last 12 months negatively impacted total comparable sales by 300 basis points.

Registrations for Walgreens Balance Rewards loyalty program, which launched in September, totaled more than 64 million through March. 

Walgreens opened 12 stores during March, including four relocations, and closed one.


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