HEALTH

Rite Aid highlights patients’ favorite pharmacists with annual contest

BY Allison Cerra

CAMP HILL, Pa. Rite Aid is asking patients to vote for their favorite pharmacist during the month of October, which is American Pharmacists Month.

Through Oct. 31, Rite Aid patients are encouraged to vote for their favorite pharmacist on RiteAid.com or in any Rite Aid store, an annual contest now in its seventh year. One patient and one pharmacist will each receive $2,500 in Rite Aid gift cards through a random drawing.

“American Pharmacists Month is the perfect time to honor Rite Aid pharmacists for all they do to keep their patients and communities healthy,” said Robert Thompson, Rite Aid EVP pharmacy. “Our pharmacists provide outstanding patient care every day, whether they’re counseling patients on medications, administering immunizations or helping them manage a new or difficult disease. Our Favorite Pharmacist program is a great way for our company and patients to thank them for their hard work and dedication throughout the year.”

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Kerr hosts senator in push for MTM

BY DSN STAFF

RALEIGH, N.C. —Kerr Drug hosted U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan Aug. 16 for a pharmacy and health center tour that drew praise from the North Carolina Democrat and a new push for medication therapy management.

Hagan toured the patient care area of a Kerr drug store in the 90-store chain’s home market, and used the opportunity to talk with patients and pharmacists about the value of pharmacy-based clinical care. The lawmaker, a co-sponsor of the Medication Therapy Management Expanded Benefits Act of 2010, S.3543, lauded the contributions made by pharmacists in improving patient care and controlling health costs. She also promoted the expansion of MTM services to Medicare Part D recipients and worked to include an MTM provision in the new healthcare-reform bill, creating a grant program to promote MTM services.

“Pharmacy is evolving to a more patient-centered focus as patients and providers realize the value of pharmacy in improving health care,” said Kerr chairman and CEO Tony Civello. “We know that for every $1 invested in MTM, overall healthcare costs are reduced by $8 or more. Sen. Hagan understands that value.”

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Senate, courts debate legality of patent settlement deals

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK —For all its successes, the generic drug industry has had a lot to worry about this year. Its main lobbying organization in Washington, the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, gained a pyrrhic victory with the creation of an abbreviated approval pathway for follow-on biologics in the healthcare-reform bill—the pathway is now law, but with a much longer period of data exclusivity for innovator biologics than the group hoped for—while Teva Pharmaceutical Industries left the organization, as did former president and CEO Kathleen Jaeger. Now, on top of that, one of its most important legal assets is under fire with the hair-thin passage of a ban by a Senate committee two months ago.

Generally, companies seeking to market generic versions of drugs before the expiration of the patents protecting the branded drugs have done so by filing regulatory approval applications containing a paragraph-IV certification, a legal assertion that the patents covering a branded drug are invalid, unenforceable or won’t be infringed by a generic version. When this happens, the branded drug maker will sue the generic drug maker, but the cases often result in a settlement between the two parties that allows the generic drug maker to launch its product after waiting a while, but usually before the patent expires.

For generic drug makers and the GPhA, this is a way to get generic drugs on the market earlier than they would if the cases went to trial or if the generic companies waited until all the patents had expired, as well as a way to avoid the costly legal fees of going to trial. Not only that, but the first company to get the generic version of a drug on the market gets six months in which to directly compete with the branded version, which has been a tremendous source of profit for generic drug makers over the years. But for the Federal Trade Commission, such politicians as Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., and the editorial board of The New York Times, the settlements are sneaky “pay-for-delay” deals in which branded and generic drug makers, normally competitors, conspire to keep cheaper alternatives to expensive branded drugs out of patients’ hands.

The latest political blow to patent settlements came in July when the Senate Appropriations Committee passed a ban on them by a 15-to-15 vote. “The anti-consumer provision was slipped into the Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill in the latest attempt to move forward legislation that has been unable to pass as a freestanding bill,” a GPhA statement in response to the passage read. “Forcing policy changes into an appropriations bill is a procedural facade with highly negative impact; it will result in fewer generics medicines coming to market prior to patent expiration.”

According to a report released in January by RBC Capital Markets, over the last decade, generics companies have prevailed in 48% of patent litigation cases that have gone to trial but in 76% of cases when settlements are included, while more than half of all cases are settled or dropped. Meanwhile, the FTC contended that patent settlements cost consumers $3.5 billion per year and keep generic drugs off the market for an average of 17 months longer than when deals don’t include payment.

But the term “pay-for-delay” might be misleading, however. Under the law, the GPhA’s Jaeger told Drug Store News in an interview earlier this year, a generic drug company is forbidden from delaying launch after the patents covering the branded drug have expired. In addition, the “payment” often isn’t in the form of money, but in the form of an agreement by the branded drug maker not to launch a so-called “authorized generic.” An authorized generic essentially is a branded drug marketed under its generic name, usually through a third-party company, which would give the branded drug company an extra weapon in its marketing arsenal by providing a competitor to the actual generic drug during the latter’s customary six months’ exclusivity. The FTC has spoken in favor of authorized generics, saying they help keep drug prices down overall, while the GPhA opposes them.

But soon after the Senate committee’s political punch in the nose came a legal ice pack. The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York declined Sept. 7 to reconsider a ruling made earlier this year in favor of Bayer and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries subsidiary Barr Labs concerning the companies’ settlement over the anthrax treatment Cipro (ciprofloxacin), affirming that the deal did not violate antitrust laws.

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