PHARMACY

Patients using mail-order pharmacy for new statin Rxs achieved better cholesterol control in study

BY Alaric DeArment

OAKLAND, Calif. — Patients in northern California using Kaiser Permanente’s services who received new prescriptions for statin drugs through mail-order pharmacy showed better control of their cholesterol in the first three to 15 months following the start of therapy than those who obtained them from Kaiser Permanente Northern California pharmacies, according to a new study.

The 100,298-patient study, published online in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, found that 85% of patients using mail-order pharmacy achieved their desired cholesterol levels, compared with 74.2% of those who used the local pharmacy.

“While the findings of this study should be confirmed in a randomized controlled trial, they provide new evidence that mail-order pharmacy use may be associated with improved care and outcomes for patients for risk factors with cardiovascular disease,” lead study author and Kaiser Permanente Division of Research investigator Julie Schmittdiel said. “Though mail order may not be right for all patients, this study shows that it is one possible tool in the broader healthcare system-level toolbox that can help patients meet their medication needs.”

Schmittdiel said the study was the first to examine whether mail-order pharmacy use is related to improved cardiovascular risk factor outcomes.

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PHARMACY

Pharmacists urge officials to reject Oregon pharmacy reimbursement reductions

BY Michael Johnsen

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The National Community Pharmacists Association on Friday announced “grave concerns” regarding a purported Oregon Medicaid plan amendment that would, according to the association, renege on a pact the state previously reached with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and cut Medicaid pharmacy reimbursement for the second time this year.

Earlier this year, CMS approved a state plan amendment proposal by Oregon that reduced pharmacy reimbursement by basing it on the pharmacy’s average acquisition cost instead of the average wholesale price. This cut was mitigated by an accompanying increase in its dispensing fee to better reflect pharmacy costs. In discussions with the pharmacy community, CMS has indicated that a shift to an AAC-based reimbursement methodology needs to be considered simultaneously with an enhanced dispensing fee.

In a letter to CMS this week, NCPA stated it was “cautiously optimistic that a switch to AAC could be an appropriate method on which to base pharmacist reimbursement as long as such a proposal would be considered simultaneously with an enhanced dispensing fee.”

However, Oregon’s latest SPA would reduce the new dispensing fee and set a “dangerous precedent,” the NCPA said. “In effect, states could win CMS approval for a shift to the lower, AAC-reimbursement benchmark by also agreeing to increase pharmacy dispensing fees. Then the state could later pare back the dispensing fee, further reducing pharmacy overall reimbursement and potentially jeopardizing Medicaid patients’ access to pharmacies, some of which may be forced to leave the Medicaid program rather than dispense at a financial loss.”

“Independent community pharmacists are the backbone of the Medicaid drug benefit and often serve rural and urban areas that have few, if any, other pharmacy providers,” NCPA EVP and CEO Douglas Hoey said. “Local pharmacists can help states reduce their Medicaid costs by promoting low-cost generic drugs, where appropriate, and through face-to-face counseling on the proper use of medication. Unfortunately, this proposal is a step in the wrong direction and turns a blind eye toward the health needs of Medicaid patients. For these and other reasons, CMS should not approve it.”

Currently, there are 160 independent community pharmacies in Oregon, NCPA reported.

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PHARMACY

Bristol to acquire Amira

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK — Bristol-Myers Squibb will acquire San Diego-based Amira Pharmaceuticals for $325 million, the two companies said Friday.

Amira develops pharmaceutical drugs for treating inflammatory and fibrotic diseases, and the deal includes milestone payments of up to $150 million on top of the upfront purchase price. Amira’s drugs include AM152, an investigational treatment for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, currently in early-stage clinical trials and set to enter mid-stage trials.

“As part of the continued execution of our focused BioPharma strategy, Bristol-Myers Squibb has identified fibrotic diseases as an area of high unmet medical need that complements our research efforts in several of our therapeutic areas,” Bristol EVP, chief scientific officer and president for research and development Elliott Sigal said. “The acquisition of Amira Pharmaceuticals represents the latest example of our ‘String of Pearls’ strategy, a highly targeted set of transactions designed to enrich our innovative pipeline with potential medicines to help patients in need.”

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