PHARMACY

Rite Aid asks patients to vote for their favorite pharmacist

BY Michael Johnsen

CAMP HILL, Pa. Rite Aid is asking patients to vote for their Favorite Pharmacist by sharing stories of exceptional service and describing why their pharmacist stands out as part of the chain’s celebration of American Pharmacists Month this October, Rite Aid announced last week.

“American Pharmacists Month is the perfect time for us to honor our pharmacists, who are medication experts and on the front lines counseling and answering patients questions every day,” stated Phil Keough, senior vice president of pharmacy operations. “We recognize that our pharmacists provide exceptional care for their patients all year long, and our Favorite Pharmacist program is just one way we show our pharmacists that their hard work is appreciated.”

The annual program is in its fourth year.

Patients can vote for their favorite pharmacist online at www.riteaid.com or by paper ballot, which they can pick up at any Rite Aid pharmacy. As part of the contest, customers who vote will be entered into a random drawing where one customer will win a $2,500 Rite Aid gift card.

“Patients are always writing to us to tell how their Rite Aid pharmacist helped them avoid dangerous drug interactions or how he or she helped them deal with a new or difficult disease,” said Keough. “We’re proud of our pharmacists and we want them to know how thankful we and their patients are for all that they do.”

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PHARMACY

Senate approves equal pharmacy access for military and their families

BY Allison Cerra

ALEXANDRIA, Va. The National Association of Chain Drug Stores issued a letter to a New Jersey senator yesterday for his support in their fight to prevent an increase in co-payments for military beneficiaries.

Senator Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., was thanked for sponsoring an amendment to prohibit increased co-payments to those beneficiaries using retail pharmacies in the TRICARE health benefits program. TRICARE is the military health program that provides care to over 9 million uniformed personnel, their families and retired military worldwide.

“Keeping equal access to chain community pharmacy for our U.S. military and their families is a priority for NACDS,” stated NACDS President and chief executive officer, Steve Anderson, “We applaud Senator Lautenberg’s leadership in introducing the amendment, which shows great support for our nation’s military. We look forward to continuing to work with the Senator and his colleagues to pass H.R. 1585, and continue to develop policy solutions that maximize competition and protect choice for TRICARE beneficiaries.”

The amendment was subsequently adopted as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2008 (H.R. 1585), which is currently being debated in the Senate. The amendment will ensure that TRICARE patients would not be inclined to use mail order rather than local retail pharmacies because of co-payment increase.

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Senate passes bill for tamper-resistant prescription delay

BY Jim Frederick

WASHINGTON Now, it’s up to the White House.

Pharmacy leaders breathed a cautious sigh of relief today with passage in the U.S. Senate last night of a bill that would delay for six months a looming requirement that all Medicaid prescriptions to be written on tamper-resistant prescription paper. But with no time left to lose before the Oct. 1 deadline originally imposed by Congress for implementation of the new prescription pad rule, leaders at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association immediately set their sights on convincing President Bush to sign the measure into law before Monday.

Following passage in the House of a companion measure, the Senate on Thursday night approved H.R. 3668, extending several health care programs set to expire Oct. 1. Of critical interest to pharmacy and physician groups, it also allows for a six-month delay in the tamper-proof mandate to give both professions—and state Medicaid administrators nationwide—a chance to obtain the needed pads and adapt to the new requirement.

The original mandate was written into an Iraq war funding bill with little notice, requiring all Medicaid prescriptions to be written on special tamper-resistant pads beginning Oct. 1. The rapidly approaching deadline raised alarm bells among dozens of pharmacy, physician and patient advocacy groups in recent weeks, and spawned an increasingly intense lobbying campaign to turn aside the regulation.

“Community pharmacists are aware of the problems associated across the country with Medicaid fraud,” said Bruce Roberts, executive vice president and chief executive officer of NCPA. “With a stroke of the President’s pen, the health care community will have adequate lead time to make the use of tamper-resistant pads a reality. I urge President Bush to move swiftly to approve this delay before the October 1st effective date of the law.”

NACDS president and chief executive officer Steven Anderson praised the bipartisan leadership of Ohio Senators George Voinovich, a Republican, and Democrat Sherrod Brown, for addressing the tamper-resistant requirement in a stand-alone bill earlier this week—a bill that was superseded by the extension legislation passed last night. “The determined efforts of Senator Brown, Senator Voinovich, as well as Senate Leadership, were crucial to achieving passage of this six-month delay.

“We greatly appreciate their support for community pharmacy and the Medicaid patients we serve,” Anderson said. “We also applaud the support of Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and ranking member Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who supported inclusion of the delay in the final health extenders legislation.”

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