PHARMACY

New report notes slow growth in U.S. healthcare spending

BY Allison Cerra

WASHINGTON The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported the slowest growth in healthcare spending since the organization began tracking such expenditures in 1960.

Nominal health spending in the United States grew 4.4% in 2008 to $2.3 trillion, or $7,681 per person. The findings are included in a report by CMS’ Office of the Actuary, released Tuesday in the health policy journal Health Affairs.

Despite slower growth, however, healthcare spending continued to outpace overall nominal economic growth, which grew by 2.6% in 2008 as measured by the gross domestic product. CMS added that the spending accounted for 16.2% of the U.S. economy.

“This report contains some welcome news and yet another warning sign,” said Jonathan Blum, director of CMS’ Center for Medicare Management. “Healthcare spending as a percentage of GDP is rising at an unsustainable rate. It is clear that we need health insurance reform now.”

The economic downturn significantly impacted health spending as more Americans could not afford to spend their limited resources on health care and instead went without care. This led to slower growth in personal health care paid by private sources of funds, which increased only 2.8% in 2008. The recession also made it difficult for many Americans to afford private health insurance and coverage, leading to lower growth in private health insurance benefit spending which slowed to 3.9% in 2008.

Additionally, health spending was also impacted by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which provided a temporary 27-month increase in federal medical assistance percentages used to determine the federal Medicaid payments to states. The legislation led to approximately $7 billion of Medicaid spending shifting from states to the federal government for the last quarter of 2008. Meanwhile, total healthcare spending by such public programs as Medicare and Medicaid grew 6.5% in 2008, the same rate as in 2007.

Click here to read the complete report.

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Walgreens offering H1N1 vaccinations at all pharmacies, Take Care Clinics nationwide

BY Allison Cerra

DEERFIELD, Ill. The once-scarce H1N1 vaccine now is available daily at all of the more than 7,100 Walgreens pharmacies and 350 Take Care Clinics throughout the country, Walgreens announced Monday.

With nearly all states lifting priority group vaccination restrictions, Walgreens is able to offer H1N1 vaccine to anyone in those states who wants a vaccination and who meets state age requirements. Priority group vaccination restrictions are still in effect in Hawaii only.

H1N1 vaccinations are available at Walgreens pharmacies on a walk-in basis when an immunizing pharmacist is on staff and also may be available by appointment. Additionally, Take Care Clinics at select Walgreens stores in 19 states have board-certified nurse practitioners and physician assistants who will provide vaccinations on a walk-in basis daily, pending vaccine availability. Age restrictions for pharmacist-administered vaccinations vary by state, while Take Care Clinics can immunize children ages 2 years and above.

“We share with government and health officials nationwide the goal of protecting as many people as possible from the H1N1 virus, while also helping to lessen the impact or prevent a third wave of H1N1 activity,” said Walgreens president and CEO Greg Wasson. “Soon, anyone in the country who wants an H1N1 vaccination will be able to get one. And by offering convenient, affordable access to the vaccine, as well as other health and wellness resources, Walgreens continues to play an integral role in helping people stay well throughout the flu season.”

The cost for the administration of H1N1 vaccine at Walgreens and Take Care Clinics is $18. Vaccinations are covered by Medicare and may be covered by Medicaid and other insurance plans. Consumers are encouraged to check with their insurance provider for coverage details.

For the nearest Walgreens pharmacy, consumers can call 1-800-Walgreens or visit www.walgreens.com/flu. For Take Care Clinic locations, consumers should visit www.takecarehealth.com or call 1-866-Take-Care.

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Teva announces availability of Parkinson’s disease generic

BY Allison Cerra

NORTH WALES, Pa. A generic drug maker has announced the availability of a treatment of the signs and symptoms of idiopathic Parkinson’s disease.

Pramipexole diHCl tablets are available in a 0.125-mg strength, in a bottle size of 63; and in 0.25-mg, 0.5-mg, 1-mg and 1.5-mg strengths in bottle sizes of 90. The generic is equivalent to Mirapex, which was developed by Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals.

“Our customers count on Teva for a continuous supply of new generic products,” said Maureen Cavanaugh, VP customer operations and marketing. “With the launch of pramipexole dihydrochloride tablets, we add another quality product to our broad line of affordable generic pharmaceuticals.”

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