PHARMACY

Online pharmacy provider, advocacy group partner to deliver low-cost meds in Ohio

BY Jim Frederick

CINCINNATI A nonprofit health advocacy group in Ohio has teamed up with a fast-growing mail-order pharmacy to launch a new and potentially expandable program to provide low-cost prescription drugs to underserved residents in southwest Ohio.

The new effort comes from Health Care Access Now, an Ohio nonprofit set up to healthcare access and delivery to lower-income and elderly residents of greater Cincinnati, and HealthWarehouse.com, Inc., an VIPPS-certified online mail-order prescription provider. Residents who qualify for the program will be able to purchase 300 medications for $3.50, with free delivery to their home or apartment.

The partnership will target 20 counties in southwest Ohio, northern Kentucky and southeastern Indiana, with a combined population of 2.2 million people. Health Care Access Now estimates that roughly 11% of the region’s population lacks access to a regular healthcare provider, and to affordable options for their medications.

“Like many areas in the United States, over the last 24 months Cincinnati has seen an increase in the number of individuals who have lost health-insurance benefits or can no longer afford co-pays for medications,” noted HealthWarehouse in a statement. The company said it will make prescription and over-the-counter medications available to metro Cincinnati residents “through a variety of care coordination community-based healthcare providers.”

Judith Warren, executive director of Health Care Access Now, noted, “Nonprofit health providers are always in need of support … this partnership supports our mutual goal of expanding resources to serve more communities.”

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NACDS urges FDA to move carefully in risk management rules for opioids

BY Jim Frederick

ROCKVILLE, Md. Note to the Food and Drug Administration from the chain pharmacy industry: when it comes to beefing up oversight and regulation of some high-risk medications, slow and steady is the best approach.

As the FDA mulls new, broad-based requirements on the dispensing and monitoring of all medications in the opioid class of painkillers, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores is weighing in with a cautious, if qualified, endorsement. That support came today from Kevin N. Nicholson, NACDS VP and pharmacy adviser for government affairs and public policy, who addressed a joint meeting of the FDA’s Anesthetic and Life Support Drugs Advisory and Drug Safety and Risk Management Advisory committees.

The meeting was set up to study the agency’s proposal to require all painkillers in the opioid class of medicines to follow the FDA’s Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies guidelines. The agency first unveiled new REMS requirements for the makers of some higher-risk specialty medications in 2007. Thus far, the biggest target for those new REMS requirements has been the opioid class of painkillers, given their narcotic properties and the risks they carry for abuse and addiction.

Nicholson told the joint panel that NACDS "supports the measured approach to REMS that the FDA appears to be embracing, as evidenced by the FDA’s proposal for the classwide opioid REMS." However, he added, "The FDA must carefully navigate between mitigating the risks of these medications while also not negatively impacting patient care."

"We are pleased that the proposed REMS for long acting and extended release opioids follows the advice of stakeholders that emphasizes caution and deliberation over speed," said the NACDS executive. "Take time to develop the REMS and allow for stakeholder input to prevent negative consequences."

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Beacon Community program seeks to curb diabetes across country

BY Allison Cerra

WASHINGTON Vice President Joe Biden and the Department of Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius have announced a pilot program designed to curb diabetes in 15 selected U.S. cities with the help of health-information technology.

The Beacon Community program will use health IT resources within their community as a foundation for bringing doctors, hospitals, community health programs, federal programs and patients together to design new ways of improving quality and efficiency to benefit patients and taxpayers, the White House said in a release.  Each Beacon Community has elected specific and measurable improvement goals in each of three vital areas for health systems improvement: quality, cost-efficiency, and population health. The goals vary according to the needs and priorities of each community.

Communities will use their Beacon Community awards to provide better control of blood pressure for diabetic and hypertensive patients, improvements in care coordination and chronic disease management, reductions in preventable emergency department visits and re-hospitalizations, reductions in health disparities, better rates of immunization for children and adults, and better adherence to smoking cessation and appropriate cancer screening guidelines, the White House said in a release. The Beacon projects are expected to initially create dozens of new jobs in each community paying an average of $70,000 per year for a total of 1,100 jobs up-front, while accelerating development of a nationwide health IT infrastructure that will eventually employ tens of thousands of Americans.

Cities included in the program are: Tulsa, Okla.; Stoneville, Miss.; Brewer, Maine; Danville, Pa.; Salt Lake City; Indianapolis; Spokane, Wash.; Rochester, Minn.; Providence, R.I.; Junction, Colo.; Concord, N.C.; San Diego; Hilo, Hawaii; and Buffalo, N.Y.

“The most important healthcare innovations are those that are designed and tested by providers and community leaders all across the country. Beacon Communities will offer insight into how health IT can make a real difference in the delivery of health care,” said Secretary Sebelius. “The Beacon Community Program will tap the best ideas across America and demonstrate the enormous benefit health IT will have to improving health and care within our communities.”

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