HEALTH

Pharmavite CEO to step down

BY Michael Johnsen

NORTHRIDGE Connie Barry, Pharmavite president and CEO since 2005, on Friday announced that she will be stepping down from her role at the company effective Jan. 31, 2010, due to personal health issues.

Barry is a 30-year Pharmavite veteran who led the company through its largest growth period. Under her leadership, Nature Made, Pharmavite’s flagship supplement brand, significantly grew market share, expanded distribution and maintained its position as the No. 1 selling brand in the food, drug, mass and club channels.

Pharmavite’s Board is expected to name a successor in the next few weeks.  In the interim, the current executive team will continue to lead the company.  Barry has agreed to continue in an advisory capacity as needed to support the organization.

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Pharmacy groups hail bipartisan effort to lift Medicaid generic dispensing rates

BY Jim Frederick

ALEXANDRIA, Va. A new push from members of both parties in the House of Representatives to boost Medicaid prescription payments drew strong praise Thursday from the chain and independent pharmacy lobby, and also drew calls from industry leaders to make fair Medicaid reimbursement system part of health-reform legislation.

To that end, a bipartisan group of 16 members of Congress sent a letter urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to consider a higher federal upper limit by which Medicaid could reimburse community pharmacies for dispensing generic drugs. Leaders of both the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association welcomed the move.

In their appeal to the speaker, the House members raised concerns about the Medicaid prescription payment levels now envisioned in the health reform bills proposed in the House and Senate. While both bills include proposals to modify the severe payment cuts pushed through two years ago – cuts that remain on hold thanks to a court injunction – the 16 lawmakers urged Pelosi to take a fresh look at the issue.

“We are still concerned that the reimbursement levels proposed will not be sufficient to assure that Medicaid patients will be able to obtain prescription medications through their community pharmacies,” the representatives told Pelosi. “This could reduce Medicaid patients’ access to many pharmacies and negatively impact generic dispensing.”

As currently written, the health-reform proposal passed last month by the House of Representatives contains a proposal for Medicaid to pay pharmacies at 130% of the weighted average of the drug’s acquisition cost as defined by its average manufacturer price, or AMP. The appeal to the House leader comes as furious debate continues in the Senate over a health reform package championed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, and other Democrats. The Senate bill calls for generics dispensed under Medicaid to be reimbursed at 175% of the weighted average.

If and when that bill is passed, it must then be reconciled with the House health reform bill through House-Senate negotiations. But as currently written, neither Medicaid reimbursement formula may be enough, lawmakers warned Pelosi.

“We respectfully urge you to consider a higher federal upper limit reimbursement rate for generics for pharmacies,” they noted in their letter. “Community pharmacies play a critical role as primary health care providers in all communities across the United States and often serve as the only resource to millions of lower income Americans for their daily needs. Failure to adequately fix the Medicaid pharmacy reimbursement would directly impact these patients and the pharmacies that continue to serve them.”

NACDS and NCPA strongly endorsed the appeal. “As the face of neighborhood health care, pharmacy is the most convenient and accessible healthcare provider,” said NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson. “We are pleased that these members of Congress are working on behalf of pharmacy to ensure that Medicaid patients have access to their prescription drugs and other pharmacy services. These patients should not be penalized due to an unfair reimbursement model.”

Added NCPA EVP and CEO Bruce Roberts, “NCPA sincerely appreciates this bipartisan show of support for community pharmacy. Clearly, lawmakers across the political spectrum recognize the important role community pharmacists play in helping Medicaid recipients – and want to continue to play. But for that to happen, Congress must replace these deep cuts with an equitable reimbursement system.”

The letter was signed by Reps. Michael Arcuri (D-N.Y.), Joe Barton (R-Tex.), Marion Berry (D-Ark.), Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.), Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa), Rick Boucher (D-Va.), Christopher Carney (D-Pa.), Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), Lloyd Doggett (D-Tex.), Walter Jones (R-N.C.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.), Timothy Walz (D-Minn.), Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), and Peter Welch (D-Vt.).

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Survey: Adults have trouble picking appropriate treatments for cough symptoms

BY Michael Johnsen

AUSTIN, Texas Despite an increased concern for their health due to fears of the H1N1 influenza virus, American adults frequently confuse their symptoms and the treatments appropriate for them when dealing with a cough due to a cold or flu, according to results of a new survey conducted in October for the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners released Wednesday.

Two online surveys — one fielded in January just prior to the emergence of the H1N1 virus, and a second survey fielded in October following the H1N1 virus outbreak — were conducted for the AANP by Harris Interactive. The first survey queried more than 500 nonsmokers ages 25 to 55 years who reported having a cough due to cold or flu in the last year; the second survey queried 1,928 adults ages 18 years and older.

In the more recent survey, nearly 60% of Americans reported they are somewhat or very concerned for their health when near someone who coughs, due to the high number of H1N1 flu cases expected this year.

Although 72% of all survey respondents who had experienced a cough reported treating it with an over-the-counter regimen, American adults are largely unsure or inaccurate when identifying which cough product works best for relieving their symptoms. More than 40% were not sure at all, and only 15% accurately identified cough products that contain an expectorant as best for relieving cold-related coughs, and those that contain a suppressant as best for flu-related coughs.

“We found patients are still confused about cold and flu symptoms and how best to treat them, even though there’s been a lot of education about the flu this year,” stated Mary Ellen Roberts, nurse practitioner and AANP board member.

More than three-fourths of adults correctly associate the flu with high fever and severe aches and pains. However, less than one-quarter identified a dry, unproductive cough as a symptom of the flu. Conversely, more than 75% of adults correctly associate the common cold with a productive cough, stuffy nose and sneezing, yet only one in 10 respondents reported taking an expectorant product to treat cough due to cold.

“Because coughs associated with the cold and flu differ both in their causes and in their effects, patients need different over-the-counter medications for them,” said Roberts. “With a cough due to a cold, patients should treat with an expectorant to clear out mucus. For coughs associated with the flu, patients should usually consider a cough suppressant to treat a dry, hacking cough, as well as acetaminophen to reduce fever and pain.”

Earlier survey results from January show that 73% — 68 million Americans — experienced disrupted sleep due to a cough in the past year, yet more than two-thirds of the adults who chose not to stay home because of their cough say that they made the choice because they didn’t want to miss work or school. Of all symptoms cough sufferers experience; difficulty sleeping was the most commonly reported and correlated most strongly with the severity of the cough, and with the likelihood of seeking professional treatment.

“Cough sufferers need to know that when they don’t get their symptoms treated rapidly and properly, they might not only lose effective rest, but there can be far-reaching ramifications on their work or school days,” Roberts said. “We frequently see patients continue normal activities regardless of how they feel. While this may be reflective of the current economic situation, patients need to know that this may not be the wisest decision in the long term, and that there are long-acting products that can provide symptomatic relief for up to 12 hours.”

Both surveys were sponsored by an unrestricted educational grant from Reckitt Benckiser.

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