Retail pharmacy groups respond to merger agreement between Express Scripts, Medco
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The merger agreement between Medco Health Solutions and Express Scripts announced Thursday has drawn objections from retail pharmacy trade groups.
In a joint statement on Thursday, National Community Pharmacists Association EVP and CEO Douglas Hoey and National Association of Chain Drug Stores president and CEO Steve Anderson said Express Scripts’ $29.1 billion acquisition of Medco would “exacerbate [pharmacy benefit managers’] detrimental effect on pharmacy patient care.”
“Today’s announcement that Express Scripts will buy Medco creates a middle man that is too big to play fair and will have immense power to unfairly dominate the market,” a statement by Hoey and Anderson read. “This combination will monopolize control of the supply line for brand and generic prescription drugs, [it will] threaten access to pharmacy patient care and [it] is a bad deal for America, for healthcare plans, for pharmacies and — most notably — for patients.”
The organizations said they would consult with the Federal Trade Commission, state attorneys general and other officials to determine the next steps they would take.
“Community pharmacy services help to improve patient health and lower overall healthcare costs,” the statement read. “Unfortunately, practical and rhetorical actions by the PBM community have increasingly ignored, and treated with irrational hostility, the vital importance of the patient-pharmacist relationship.
Take Care’s enhanced website offers visibility to real-time information to patients
CONSHOHOCKEN, Pa. — Take Care Health Systems, which is owned by Walgreens, has revamped its website to now provide patients with online access to estimated clinic wait times, clinical quality scores and cost of services at Take Care Clinics across the country.
"With the advent of consumer-driven systems, such as high-deductible health plans, today’s patients and payers are more motivated than ever to comparison shop for healthcare services," said Sandy Ryan, chief nurse practitioner officer for Take Care Health Systems. "The new TakeCareHealth.com provides the tools that will allow patients to make smarter choices about where and how they seek care, which, in turn, offers a significant opportunity to drive down costs and improve outcomes."
By visiting TakeCareHealth.com, patients can access a cost menu before visiting a Take Care Clinic, and review local and up-to-date information on patient satisfaction scores and market-specific quality of care scores based on National Center for Quality Assurance Health Effectiveness Data and Information Set guidelines. HEDIS guidelines are used by more than 90% of America’s health plans to measure performance on healthcare delivery.
"A knowledgeable and empowered patient is in the best position to make smart choices on where and how [he or she will] go about accessing [his or her] health care," said Charles Stellar, EVP of America’s Health Insurance Plans. "To drive better health outcomes at lower costs, providers should increasingly look to offer patients and consumers easily accessible information on the quality and price of their services. Walgreens and Take Care Health’s decision to offer access to HEDIS information, patient experience metrics and service costs through a consumer-facing website is a strong template for improving transparency in health care."
Take Care Clinics historically have simplified patient access to healthcare services by providing a walk-in care setting with evening and weekend hours and an easy-to-use registration kiosk. The site now makes it even easier by giving patients and their families visibility to real-time information on wait times, vaccine availability and accepted insurance plans.
"Leading payers, managed care organizations and health systems are striving to offer patients a simpler and easier healthcare experience," added Heather Helle, Walgreens divisional VP for Take Care Health’s Consumer Solutions Group. "Access to relevant and tangible information on quality and cost at Take Care Clinics removes traditional barriers to transparency, allowing patients to take a more proactive and informed role in choosing what the best and most cost-effective care setting is for them."
FDA OKs REMS for Fentora, Actiq
FRAZER, Pa. — The Food and Drug Administration has approved a risk evaluation and mitigation strategy for two painkillers made by Cephalon, the drug maker said Thursday.
The FDA approved a REMS for Fentora (fentanyl) buccal tablets and Actiq (oral transmucosal fentanyl citrate). Both drugs are used for managing breakthrough pain in cancer patients who have become tolerant of opioid drugs.
Under the REMS, healthcare professionals who prescribe the drugs and pharmacies that dispense them will enroll by completing an education module and knowledge assessment focused on safety information and appropriate patient selection, and prescribers will educate patients.
“The Fentora and Actiq REMS demonstrate Cephalon’s commitment to patient safety while maintaining access to these medicines for the often debilitating breakthrough pain experienced by many opioid-tolerant patients with cancer,” Cephalon chief medical officer Lesley Russell said. “The program provides education and systems to support safe use of Fentora and Actiq, preserving availability of the medicines to patients through retail pharmacies and using other systems already familiar to prescribers and pharmacists.”