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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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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Good Neighbor Pharmacy expands immunization programs for pharmacists

BY Michael Johnsen

VALLEY FORGE, Pa. — Good Neighbor Pharmacy recently signed an agreement with the University of Southern California, providing a unique, international travel health program for community pharmacists, the company announced Friday.

As part of a larger immunization certification program, Good Neighbor Pharmacy members, a network of more than 3,700 locally owned and operated community pharmacies, are eligible to enroll in a training program that offers comprehensive pretravel health services in the convenient community pharmacy setting.

Pharmacists who have received certification to administer specific immunizations and vaccines in their state are eligible for this travel health program. International travel health experts at the University of Southern California School of Pharmacy will provide additional training and clinical support to participating pharmacists. Pharmacists will gather information from their patients and work with the USC Travel Medicine Assistance Program to give patient and destination-specific recommendations for vaccines, prescription and over-the-counter medications, travel supplies and counseling topics. Local pharmacists see the patient, equipped with expert information from USC Travel MAP.

“Working with USC Travel MAP gives another opportunity for our Good Neighbor Pharmacies to be a resource for their patients, which is consistent with Good Neighbor Pharmacy’s goal of becoming a healthcare destination,” Good Neighbor Pharmacy president Mike Cantrell said. “Pharmacists certified to provide immunizations, and acquire this additional training, will be providing one more important professional, convenient service for their patients.”

Good Neighbor Pharmacy members learned of the USC Travel MAP at the National Healthcare Conference and Exposition held in Las Vegas this past week.

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