PHARMACY

Roche announces strong sales for FY 2007

BY Drew Buono

BASEL, Switzerland Roche recently released its full year report and said that strong sales of its anticancer drugs helped lift full-year net profit by 25 percent, according to the Associated Press.

Net income for the company rose to $10.48 billion from $8.48 billion a year ago. Sales reached $42.22 billion, a 10 percent jump from 2006. As a result, for the first time Roche beat its rival Novartis, which posted sales of $39.83 billion.

The figures include sales generated by its U.S. partner, biotechnology company Genentech, which is majority-owned by Roche. Without Genentech’s contribution Roche’s net profit attributable to shareholders was $8.96 billion last year, up 24 percent from a year earlier.

Roche said sales of the rheumatoid arthritis and non-Hodgkins lymphoma treatment Rituxan topped $5.05 billion in 2007, making it the company’s best-selling drug ahead of cancer medicines Herceptin and Avastin.

The company said sales of its anti-influenza drug Tamiflu dropped 19 percent to $1.92 billion, indicating that the period of strong government orders in the wake of fears over a pandemic bird flu outbreak was coming to an end.

In other news, Roche’s head of diagnostics division, Severin Schwan said he expects the acquisition of Ventana to be completed by the second quarter of 2008.

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Aetna sues Express Scripts over specialty pharmacy

BY Drew Buono

PHILADELPHIA Last month, in the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, Aetna filed a lawsuit accusing Express Scripts of “knowing, malicious, willful, deliberate and bad faith misrepresentations and outrageous misconduct” in allegedly interfering with pacts between Aetna and Priority Healthcare in the specialty pharmacy market, according to the Associated Press.

Express Scripts acquired Priority Healthcare in 2005, the year after Aetna and Priority had joined together to start a specialty pharmacy venture, Aetna Specialty Pharmacy. After Express Scripts acquired Priority, Aetna exercised its option to buy out Priority’s stake in the joint venture for $75 million, making Aetna Specialty Pharmacy a subsidiary of the health insurer.

Now, Aetna is looking to recover that $75 million plus punitive damages and injunctive relief to make Express Scripts honor the original agreement between Priority and Aetna.

Aetna alleges that Express Scripts, by violating the law and the agreements for the Aetna-Priority joint venture, has “gained an unfair competitive advantage” that precludes the health insurer and its specialty pharmacy business from “prospective advantageous relationships and markets.” Among its claims, Aetna says that its special pharmacy business has been wrongly denied access to certain limited-availability drugs, which has limited its opportunities to develop new markets.

Aetna also alleges that even before the pharmacy benefits manager announced its acquisition of Priority Healthcare in 2005, Express Scripts aimed to injure or destroy Aetna’s efforts to establish a “best of class,” standalone, independent specialty pharmaceutical business by depriving it of best-pricing guarantees in Aetna’s joint-venture agreements with Priority and the benefit of Priority’s supplier and vendor contracts.

Express Scripts has not yet filed a response.

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New Mexico disallows second-party prescription pickups without I.D.

BY Drew Buono

GALLUP, N.M. On Jan. 1, a law originated by the New Mexico state pharmacy board was put into effect that required anyone who picked up a prescription for someone else had to present a government issued photo identification, such as a driver’s license or an ID card, according to published reports. The law was created to stop fraudulent prescriptions from being filled.

One of the first people to be arrested under this new law was Michelle Florene Roan, who had attempted this stunt many times and had previously gotten away with it. She was arrested at a Wal-Mart pharmacy after coming in with a fake prescription for a narcotic.

Tom Ortega, a pharmacist at Trust Pharmacy is on the state pharmacy board that enacted this law. “We are a small pharmacy here in Grants, I know everyone who comes in,” Ortega said.

“If I don’t know them, or if they have a prescription from an out-of-state doctor, I contact the doctor’s office to see if it is good,” he said. The reason Roan probably selected Wal-Mart to try to get the drugs is it is located right next to Interstate 40 and is accessible to all the traffic and is very busy, Ortega said.

The new law is working so far; people trying to pick up prescriptions for other people has dropped by 70 percent.

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