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Pharmacy associations praise New York Medicaid victory

BY Antoinette Alexander

WASHINGTON — The New York State legislature recently wrapped up its 2015 budget negotiations with a favorable outcome for community pharmacy: It rejected an executive branch proposal to change how New York’s Medicaid program reimburses pharmacies for prescription medications.

If enacted, the proposal would have cut payments to pharmacies by $82 million annually, according to estimates, by setting the price for drugs based on a three-month rolling average acquisition cost.

Following news of the victory, state pharmacy associations released a statement praising Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature for keeping Medicaid pharmacy reimbursement at the present level.

“We appreciate the rejection of another deep cut to pharmacies in the final state budget,” said Charles Catalano, president-elect of the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York. “Every pharmacy sector in the state was united, and our collective voice was heard. Through this action the Governor and State Legislature have preserved patient access to essential pharmacy care in New York.”

After years of decreases, another pharmacy cut had been looming. Throughout 2012, the NYS Health Department conducted cost surveys and, on the basis of its statistical analyses, proposed a new below-cost reimbursement level. Pharmacy associations expressed strong concerns that the Department’s analyses of the cost data were highly flawed, excluding real pharmacy expenses and factoring in costs from large, out-of-state, mail-order operations, the associations said. In mid-March, the associations supported this claim with a report prepared by Josef Schmee, an independent statistician from Union University, that was reviewed and endorsed by faculty members from St. John Fisher College of Pharmacy and St. John’s University.

In a follow up, the National Association of Chain Drugs, who worked collaboratively with its state partners in New York on advocacy efforts, spoke with Mike Duteau, VP of business development and strategic relations for Kinney Drugs and president of the Chain Pharmacy Association of New York, about the victory and his role as a media spokesperson on the collaborative effort.

“Had this severely flawed Medicaid reimbursement model been implemented, the impact on pharmacy and our patients would have been catastrophic. Reimbursing pharmacies substantially below cost for prescriptions is not a sustainable business model. This could have resulted in greatly decreased patient access, loss of jobs for pharmacy employees and even pharmacy closures. As healthcare providers, we have an obligation to protect those patients we care for and the communities we serve,” Duteau told NACDS.

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NCPDP offers industry guidance on pediatric oral liquid medications

BY Michael Johnsen

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — NCPDP, the not-for-profit pharmacy standards development organization, on Wednesday announced the availability of a patient safety white paper that provides specific industry guidance for standardizing the dosing designations and labeling of oral liquid medications. 

The white paper details patient risks associated with the variety of oral liquid dosing designations, prescribing practices and processing systems that can lead to dispensing, and later administration errors that can harm patients — especially pediatric patients who often are prescribed liquid medications.

“Adoption and implementation of the white paper recommendations will have an immediate impact on improving patient safety today,” said Lee Ann Stember, president of NCPDP. “This collaboration is another great example of what can be accomplished when NCPDP brings industry stakeholders together to address our most valued and vulnerable healthcare stakeholder — patients.”

NCPDP’s white paper provides best-practice guidance on prescription orders, prescription labeling and administration of oral liquid medications. The recommendations are consistent with best-practice requirements by The Joint Commission for certification across acute care inpatient settings, as well as Food and Drug Administration and industry recommendations for over-the-counter medicines. The white paper also covers the provision and use of appropriate dosing devices, as well as recommendations for caregiver and patient education to facilitate proper administration of oral liquid medications.

According to the recommendations, milliliter should be the standard unit of measure used on prescription container labels for oral liquid medications. Dose amounts should always use leading zeros before the decimal point for amounts less than one, and should not use trailing zeros after a decimal point on prescription container labels for oral liquid medications. And dosing devices with numeric graduations and units that correspond to the container labeling should be made easily and universally available, such as including a device each time oral liquid prescription medications are dispensed.

The white paper includes specific calls to action for industry stakeholders, but broadly calls organizations to communicate, adopt and implement the recommendations; measure organization performance and stress accountability across the organization for adhering to the recommendations; and develop patient-centered communications and encourage pharmacist-to-patient conversations at the point of dispensing. 

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Ahold USA hosts nutrition education days

BY Michael Johnsen

CARLISLE, Pa. — As part of its ongoing commitment to help customers achieve healthier lifestyles, Ahold USA recently hosted two nutrition education days on April 8 and 9 at its Carlisle Support Office. Topics of discussion included specific products, information and services related to nutrition and health, and how to better engage and educate customers. Participants included all 12 of the company’s retail divisions in-store nutritionists, as well as members of Ahold USA’s health and wellness, marketing and quality assurance teams.

“Being in the food industry, we have an opportunity to make a real difference in the health of our customers. As part of these nutrition education days, we were able to share best practices to make our stores a better place to shop for customers working towards healthier lifestyles,” said Shirley Axe, Ahold USA’s health and wellness manager. “The best feedback we get is from our customers, and we want to be sure that our network of stores, nutritionists and vendor partners are in sync with how we can best serve their health and wellness needs.”

Approximately 20 vendor partners — including American Egg Board, American Mango Board, Chobani, Dannon, Dole, Enjoy Life, Kellogg’s, Kidfresh, Mondelez, Organic Valley, Sunmaid, Unilever and Way Better Snacks — were also invited to be part of the discussion. Each day a mini trade show was held where vendors could showcase their products and have an opportunity to speak one-on-one with the in-store nutritionists who are in the stores talking with customers every day.

“We love supporting the Ahold USA nutritionists, and this event allowed us to share with them nutrition knowledge that both increased their expertise and helped to communicate the nutrition benefits of our Cabot products and others in the category,” said Sara Wing, director of marketing, RDN, Cabot Creamery.

Marie Spano, a nutrition communications expert and one of the country’s leading sports nutritionists, served as guest speaker for the event. She is currently the sports nutritionist for the Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Hawks. Spano’s other clients have included NFL, PGA and NHL players.

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