Salix Pharmaceuticals to buy Santarus

BY Alaric DeArment

RALEIGH, N.C. — Salix Pharmaceuticals will buy Santarus for $2.6 billion, the drug makers said.

Salix will acquire all outstanding common stock of Santarus for $32 in cash, representing an approximately 36% premium over the Wednesday closing price of the company. The acquisition is expected to close in first quarter 2014. Both companies specialize in gastrointestinal drugs.

"We are very pleased to be able to merge our sales forces, combine two complementary product portfolios, expand our pipeline, diversify revenue, access healthcare providers in primary care, add a significant number of healthcare prescribers to our called-on universe and to better position Salix for success in the present as well as the future," Salix president and CEO Carolyn Logan said. "Additionally, we look forward to all of our stakeholders — patients, healthcare providers, employees and stockholders — benefitting from the increased scale created by a larger, even stronger Salix."



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U.S. consumers more likely to prefer generics

BY Alaric DeArment

The United States is leading in its preference for generic drugs. According to a new report by Rhinebeck, N.Y.-based Phoenix Marketing International, 37% of American consumers expressed a preference for generic drugs when they were available, compared with 22% of the French, 21% of Canadians and 12% of Britons. The study was based on 810 consumers in the four countries.

While Americans were slightly more likely to say the quality of generics was lower than branded drugs — 14%, versus 11% in Canada and the United Kingdom — the French were far more likely to say so, with 29% saying branded drugs were of higher quality. Interestingly, despite concerns about quality, generic use in France was the highest among countries in the study — 73% of French respondents said they had taken a generic drug in the last two years versus 70% of Americans, 54% of Canadians and 36% of Britons.

However, some disparities exist in the use of generics in the United States, particularly among Medicare beneficiaries. According to a recent study by researchers at Dartmouth College, 26.3% of prescriptions in the United States were filled as branded drugs in 2010; in Manhattan, 36% of patients used generics, but the figure was only 16.5% for those in La Crosse, Wis.

Such figures are significant considering that according to a Generic Pharmaceutical Association study conducted by IMS Health, use of generic drugs saved the U.S. healthcare system $1 trillion between 2002 and 2011. About 83% of prescriptions filled in the United States are generic, according to IMS.

Eighty-three percent is also the rate at which patients accept independent pharmacists’ recommendations for generic drug use, according to figures published in the National Community Pharmacists Association’s 2013 NCPA Digest. Independents dispense generics 77% of the time, NCPA said.


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Vendors in Profile

BY Jim Frederick

Higi ‘scores’ with kiosks

Through its biometric screening kiosks, its smartphone application and its website, Higi encourages users to take a more holistic approach to their health. True wellness, its creators insist, springs not just from such physical metrics as blood pressure, glucose readings and body mass index, but from lifestyle choices and connections to family, friends, neighbors and coworkers.

The company’s proprietary scoring system that “automatically compiles important personal health and wellness information into one manageable number, the higi Score, a compilation of your body, lifestyle and community,” according to Higi.

Higi’s chief technology officer, Khan Siddiqui, describes the company as a consumer health engagement platform that engages consumers through wellness kiosks, mobile and web.

“Higi breaks existing barriers and sparks conversation between the patient and pharmacists about their wellness,” added CEO Jeff Bennett.

“Higi stations” are currently available in hundreds of stores in 25 states, including CVS, Stop & Shop, Giant Food and Martin’s, ShopRite, Publix and Fred’s. In October, Higi added select Whole Foods stores in Northern California.

Mscripts expands mobile health

With Americans’ widespread embrace of smartphones and mobile technology, most patients now carry at least the potential for a direct, real-time link with their pharmacist in their pocket. A San Francisco-based technology company, mscripts, is working full-time to expand the possibilities of a mobile health platform that can serve as a comprehensive communications tool for boosting patients’ medication adherence, making the prescription refill process easier and accessing health information via text and video.

CEO Mark Cullen calls mscripts “the most comprehensive mobile pharmacy solution in the market today,” with widespread adoption by “national and regional retail chains, specialty pharmacies and hospital systems” that use its mobile connection with consumers to boost “patient engagement and medication adherence.”

Mscripts users, Cullen said, “can manage their health and prescription needs on their mobile phones, including the ability to refill prescriptions immediately, receive dosage and refill reminders, view video tutorials and respond to advanced adherence tactics.” The goal, he added: “a unified, omnichannel experience.”

Cullen said the mobile platform “is HIPAA compliant and has certified integrations to existing pharmacy systems including McKesson EnterpriseRx and PDX, enabling pharmacy retailers to integrate and launch in a matter of weeks.”

PillJogger uses games to make adherence ‘fun’

A mobile application-based software company has developed a new, fun-oriented tool to help pharmacies improve their patients’ medication adherence rates and boost their own non-prescription sales through mobile reminders, suggestive marketing and gaming technology.

The company, San Francisco-based PillJogger, applies innovative, interactive game-playing technology to its smartphone applications to remind patients when to take their meds, reward them for staying on their prescription regimens and encourage them to adopt healthier lifestyles.

“By engaging users with our underlying gamification architecture, we target improving persistency while driving vaccination and other revenue opportunities,” PillJogger founder and CEO Robert Pakter, M.D., said. Through the app, patients track adherence rates with a color-coded scoring bar that tracks medication use by dose and time.

“We’ve designed a total store solution … to engage shoppers with medication reminders supplanted with healthy diet and wellness tips. Ongoing user participation increases the chances of winning prizes ranging from multivitamins to a Mercedes Benz,” Pakter said.

PillJogger derives its income from product suggestions incorporated within the interactive games, but those placements are linked to rewards, Pakter said. “Research has shown consumers don’t like or trust mobile ads. [We provide] vendors [a more effective conduit] to reach those consumers.”

SoloHealth extends reach in self-directed care

As the nation’s healthcare system shifts increasingly toward self-directed patient care, outcomes-driven cost efficiencies and disease prevention, health delivery companies that align with those powerful trends will likely flourish.

Such is the case with SoloHealth. It’s newest offering, the SoloHealth station, a patented, self-service kiosk, gives consumers in more than 3,300 retail pharmacy locations “free and convenient access to health care by allowing them to screen their vision, blood pressure, weight and body mass index … in seven minutes or less for free,” according to SoloHealth.

The stations also give users access to a database of local physicians, “and actionable health recommendations,” the company said.

“Our mission is to create the most trusted consumer-directed healthcare platform using vital data to connect consumers with relevant services and products to improve their wellbeing and create better healthcare outcomes,” Stephen Kendig, EVP and chief customer officer, said.

Some high-profile retail partners — including Walmart, Sam’s Club, CVS, Publix and Schnuck’s Markets — are testing SoloHealth’s stations, and Walmart is reportedly rolling the kiosks into more than 2,500 stores. The company expects to expand to an estimated 5,000 locations in 2014.

SoloHealth also is growing its health services business, including recent partnerships with the Department of Health and Human Services, eHealth and WellPoint and its subsidiaries such as Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia.

VoicePort bridges the gap

Over the past decade, VoicePort has developed a suite of automated self-service communications solutions with an overriding goal: to forge stronger links between patients and pharmacies.

Based in Rochester, N.Y., VoicePort provides a “proactive … communications platform to patients via voice, email, SMS and mobile notifications,” the company said. According to Adam Vargulick, director of product management, “VoicePort leverages its expertise in automated self-service applications combining technology, analytics and pharmacy operations expertise to deliver a full suite of personalized multi-channel patient communication and adherence applications called PharmaPhonetics.”

Vargulick said a prime focus for VoicePort in 2013 is a HIPAA-compliant automated patient-prompt and data-capture program called SynchroScript. The program “automates key elements of a medication synchronization process and provides a powerful analytical tool and dashboard to show PDC [proportion of days covered] compliance, as well as pharmacy and health plan enrollment statistics,” according to the company.

“SynchroScript roadmap also will include access to MTM, health tips and alerts within the pharmacy workflow as well as facilitate participation in Accountable Care Organizations,” Vargulis said.

VoicePort’s other solutions include:

  • PharmaRemind, which provides just-in-time notifications to patients on refills, pickup availability and other prescription issues;
  • An appointment scheduler application branded to the pharmacy; and
  • PharmaRemind Mobile, a mobile app that enables refill notifications and secure messaging.

PharmaSmart boosts its arsenal

You could call it the one-man band of kiosk-based patient screening systems.

While the PharmaSmart 2000D won’t be broadly available until 2014, the company is already touting its breakthrough benefits as a powerful, self-contained screening station that can support any pharmacy’s preventive-health and patient-care efforts. PharmaSmart COO and general manager Ashton Maaraba calls the clinically validated, peer-reviewed system “the most advanced biometric screening solution in the world.”

The new device, set for rollout in 2014, also includes a patented system for detecting atrial fibrillation — which could be a valuable tool for pharmacy-driven interventions and stroke prevention — as well as pregnancy risk-factor monitoring, a patented new arm cuff to accommodate obese patients, a barcode scanner, wireless and USB communication and uploading capabilities, a thermal printer and a smart scale for measuring body mass index. The 2000D also provides a feature for uploading and integrating glucometer readings into a patient’s health profile, as well as a geomapping feature for patient data, and the ability to generate coupons for sponsored health products.

Pharmacy retailers can harvest a healthy return on their investment in PharmaSmart’s newest kiosk technology in several ways, according to the company, including reimbursement for medication therapy management — the system can be tied into a pharmacy’s existing MTM delivery model; sponsorships from manufacturers; and monetization of data generated by the system’s screening programs.

According to Maaraba, the new, fully integrated patient-screening station can provide pharmacy retailers with “an abundance of patient targeted ‘meaningful use’ data, which is invaluable. Payers are willing to reimburse pharmacy for this data.”

PharmaSmart has placed more than 5,000 of its kiosks in the United States and Canada.


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