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NRF wants healthcare-reform law delayed

BY Alaric DeArment

WASHINGTON — A lobbying group representing retailers is hoping Congress will delay the full implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act next year.

In testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, NRF VP and employee benefits policy counsel Neil Trautwein said retailers have "serious concerns" about the healthcare reform law, set to take effect next year. The group said it has "consistently" opposed the law.

"Our nation, particularly employers, cannot afford for the ACA to stumble out of the starting gate," Trautwein said in prepared testimony. "We fear that as time diminishes between now and January 2014, a cascade of additional last-minute regulations will create added confusion and thus could encourage more employers to back out of coverage."

The group said it would support delaying the law’s implementation by up to a year and making full-time eligibility under the law applicable only to employees who work 40 hours per week or more. Currently, the law requires employers to provide affordable coverage to those working at least 30 hours a week.

 

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FDA approves new hemophilia B treatment

BY Alaric DeArment

SILVER SPRING, Md. — The Food and Drug Administration has approved what’s being called the first therapy of its kind to prevent bleeding episodes.

The FDA announced Thursday the approval of Westlake Village, Calif.-based Baxter Healthcare Corp.’s Rixubis (coagulation factor IX [recombinant]) for patients with hemophilia B age 16 years and older. The treatment is used for controlling and preventing bleeding episodes, management of patients after surgery and routine use to prevent or reduce the frequency of bleeding episodes.

Hemophilia B affects about 3,300 people in the United States, mostly males, and can cause potentially serious bleeding, mainly in the joints, thus destroying the joints.

"As the first recombinant coagulation factor IX indicated specifically for routine prophylaxis to prevent bleeding, Rixubis becomes a new weapon in our arsenal to protect hemophilia B patients," FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research director Karen Midthun said.

 

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Study finds lower costs, better outcomes among kidney transplant patients at specialty vs. retail pharmacy

BY Alaric DeArment

IRVINE, Calif. — Specialty pharmacy plays a key role in lowering healthcare costs and improving outcomes, according to a new study.

The study, conducted by health services company OptumRx and published in the Journal of Managed Care Pharmacy, included two groups of 519 kidney transplant patients each. One group comprised people enrolled in an employer-sponsored benefit plan who filled at least 80% of their transplant-related medications at a specialty pharmacy, while the other group comprised patients who filled the same percentage of prescriptions at retail pharmacies.

According to the study, the patients using a specialty pharmacy program showed consistently lower costs and higher therapy adherence than those using retail pharmacies, including transplant-related medical costs that were 30% lower and overall healthcare costs that were 13% lower.

"We’ve seen similar outcomes in improving medication adherence and clinical results and lowering medical service costs through our specialty programs in oral oncology, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis," OptumRx VP specialty benefit and outcomes strategy and lead study author Suzanne Tschida said. "We have found that, by delivering a simpler, more personalized and convenient member experience, we empower members to manage their medications and take ownership of their conditions."

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