PHARMACY

Reverse-payment bill held up in Congress by pharmaceutical lobbying

BY Drew Buono

WASHINGTON Legislation aimed at speeding up the availability of cheaper generic drugs has stalled in Congress due to major lobbying by the drug industry, according to the Associated Press.

The Senate bill would ban most reverse payments, which occur when a brand-name company pays a generic manufacturer to delay the introduction of a drug.

An Associated Press review of lobbying reports, from July 1, 2006, through June 30, 2007, found that $38.8 million was spent by at least a dozen generic and brand-name companies and their trade associations on issues including the Senate legislation.

More than half of those expenses were piled up by the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America, which represents brand-name drug companies. PhRMA spent $19.5 million in the 12-month period ended June 30 on in-house lobbying expenses, an increase of about $3 million over the previous 12-month period.

And the Generic Pharmaceutical Association reported lobbying expenses of around $420,000 for the first six months of this year. The remaining $19 million was spent by a variety of drug companies, including Bayer, Schering-Plough, Pfizer and Teva Pharmaceuticals.

“Lobbyists have a lot of influence in Washington,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., who chairs the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust, competition policy and consumer rights. “If we can just get this to a vote, it will be pretty hard for people to vote against it. A vote against this is a vote against consumers.”

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PHARMACY

Rite Aid announces program to help seniors with Medicare Part D

BY Michael Johnsen

CAMP HILL, Pa. With the 2008 Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan open enrollment period beginning Nov. 15, Rite Aid on Monday announced that their pharmacies will look to playing a key role in educating seniors so they can make informed decisions about the best plan choice for their prescription needs.

“Rite Aid is committed to making sure our senior patients are fully educated and understand the Medicare prescription drug benefit,” stated Mark de Bruin, Rite Aid’s executive vice president of pharmacy. “We’ve teamed up with leaders in the managed care industry to create user friendly, detailed information on the Medicare Part D benefits as well as helpful step by step tips to help them determine the best Medicare Part D plan for their prescription needs. In addition, our 14,000 Rite Aid pharmacists are available to answer questions and offer explanation on the intricacies of the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit.”

All Rite Aid pharmacies are offering a free detailed Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Guide. In addition, Rite Aid pharmacists are trained on Medicare Part D to help seniors and caregivers navigate through the numerous plan options. Rite Aid also has a special website, www.riteaid.com/medicareadvisor, which allows patients to compare drug prices and get a complete list of plan options offered in their local area. Some Plans include a link to online enrollment forms.

To help educate its pharmacy patients 65 years and older on the various Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan options, Rite Aid has partnered with AARP/United Healthcare, Aetna and Wellpoint to provide detailed and useful in-store educational materials.

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FDA committee to examine new indication for Avastin

BY Allison Cerra

WASHINGTON The FDA’s Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee is set to review Genentech’s cancer drug, according to reports.

The advisory committee, which will meet Dec. 5, is said to discuss a new indication for Genentech’s cancer drug Avastin.

The company recently submitted an additional biologics license application for Avastin (bevacizumab) to treat patients who have not received chemotherapy for certain types of breast cancer.

Genentech has experienced some backlash from wholesalers and pharmacies over the drug, which is chemically similar to the company’s drug Lucentis, used to treat macular degeneration, a severe eye condition that usually occurs at a later age.

Although Avastin is not approved for ophthalmologic use, physicians use it instead of Genentech’s chemically similar drug Lucentis (ranibizumab), which is considerably more expensive.

Chairman for the Senate Special Committee on Aging, Herb Kohl, D-Wis., opposed the company’s new policy, saying it would cost taxpayers billions of dollars through higher Medicare costs.

Genentech said it would delay implementing its new distribution policy until Jan. 1, 2008.

In the first six months of this year, Avastin had sales of $1.1 billion and Lucentis had sales of $420 million.

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