PHARMACY

Rx trends 2015: Telehealth

BY Jim Frederick

NEW YORK — Doctors making house calls? It sounds so …19th century, conjuring up images of a tweedy medical practitioner arriving on someone’s doorstep by horse and buggy with a medical bag and a stethoscope. 
 
A company called Pager is working to bring the house call into the 21st century, beginning in New York City. Co-founded by Oscar Salazar, who helped launch Uber, Pager offers an iPhone app that allows users to line up an urgent-care home visit in two hours or less, from a board-certified physician, with fees starting at $199. 
 
Pager joins the fast-expanding field of telehealth, which the American Telemedicine Association describes as “the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve a patient’s clinical health status … using two-way video, email, smartphones” and other wireless tools.
 
Such drug chains as Thrifty White have been providing remote-site dispensing and video-enabled pharmacist counseling in geographically dispersed communities for years, and CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid have all launched telehealth initiatives in some markets. But its adoption is accelerating fast, says Roeen Roashan, medical devices and digital health analyst at IHS Technology. She predicts a 10-fold rise in the telehealth market by 2018, and credits “rising expenses, an aging population and the increasing prevalence of chronic diseases,” along with the shortage of primary care physicians and the need to expand access to care.
 
Among examples:
CVS, Walgreens, Cardinal Health and other companies launched the Alliance for Connected Care to foster adoption of telehealth through legislation. In December, Walgreens also partnered with MDLIVE to launch a telehealth offering that links patients in California and Michigan to physicians through its website.
The Mayo Clinic launched a telehealth pilot to provide telehealth services to middle-school students and school staff in Austin, Texas.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently indicated it was considering covering telehealth services through Medicare.
Bills that would encourage adoption have been introduced in Congress, including the Accountable Care Organization Improvement Act and the Telehealth Enhancement Act.

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House Energy and Commerce Committee releases white paper on 21st Century Cures initiative

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday released a discussion document in the 21st Century Cures initiative, outlining many of the ideas submitted over the past year, including ideas from both Republicans and Democrats. 
 
This release marks the beginning of the #Cures2015 legislative phase. In conjunction with the discussion document, the committee is releasing a new white paper, continuing its request for feedback on the ideas outlined in the discussion document to accelerate the discovery, development and delivery of new cures and treatments. 
 
The Generic Pharmaceutical Association expressed "disappointment" with the discussion draft. “GPhA is deeply disappointed in today’s 21st Century Cures discussion draft. While we appreciate that it is a draft, in its current form, the bill would upset the important balance between creating competition and encouraging innovation in the pharmaceutical marketplace, putting savings at risk and limiting access to affordable medicines for millions of American patients," stated Ralph Neas, GPhA president and CEO. "[T]he Dormant Therapies provision of the bill would potentially grant brand drug companies an unprecedented increase in exclusivity for a curiously broad category of new drugs, delaying the competition from generic drugs and biosimilars that promotes beneficial innovations in treatments."
 
According to Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, it now takes “around 14 years and $2 billion or more” to develop a new drug and “more than 95% of [such] drugs fail during development.”
 
The committee is circulating this discussion document with the intent of continuing the national dialogue. "While the legislative language released today is neither perfect nor complete, with the aforementioned goals in mind the committee has included provisions that would: (1) incorporate patient perspectives into the regulatory process and help address their unmet medical needs; (2) build the foundation for 21st century medicine; (3) streamline clinical trials; (4) support continued innovation at our federal public health agencies; and (5) modernize medical product regulation. The discussion is ongoing, and continued feedback in this collaborative effort is critical," the white paper stated. 
 
"We appreciate the opportunity to review the discussion draft released today and look forward to providing feedback to the House Energy and Commerce Committee," commented John Castellani, president and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. “PhRMA supports the Committee’s goal of accelerating the discovery, development and delivery of new medicines for patients.”
 
In April 2014, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., partnered with Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., to conduct a comprehensive look at the cycle of cures — from discovery to development to delivery and back to discovery. 
 

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Cardinal Health Specialty Solutions signs agreement with RainTree Oncology Services

BY Michael Johnsen

DUBLIN, Ohio — Cardinal Health Specialty Solutions on Tuesday announced that it has signed a three-year agreement with RainTree Oncology Services to serve as its exclusive distributor for injectable, infused, oral oncolytic and supportive care specialty medications; and for Cardinal Health’s VitalSource to serve as its group purchasing organization for injectable and infused medications.
 
One of the nation’s leading community oncology alliances, RainTree Oncology Services assists its member practices in achieving effective and cost-efficient treatment of oncology patients and in creating new streams of revenue.
 
“We are committed to providing RainTree Oncology members with the specialty distribution, technology and support services its members need to continue to run successful, efficient businesses that provide patients with access to quality, convenient cancer care,” stated Mike Mullen, general manager of Specialty Distribution for Cardinal Health Specialty Solutions. “The response to this new agreement has been extremely positive, and we are excited to already be working with 15 of RainTree Oncology’s member practices.”
 
Along with specialty distribution services, RainTree Oncology members will have access to Cardinal Health Specialty Solutions’ Web-based practice management solutions to help optimize their businesses and improve operational efficiency.  
 
“We chose to partner with Cardinal Health Specialty Solutions because of their dedication to supporting the growth of community oncology, and because of their robust set of tools that can positively impact our practice members,” commented Mike Martin, CEO of RainTree Oncology Services.
 

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