PHARMACY

Senate repeals 1099 tax reporting requirement

BY Allison Cerra

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate Tuesday voted to repeal a law that posed a burdensome tax reporting requirement for businesses.

In an 87-12 decision, the legislative body passed H.R. 4, the Small Business Paperwork Mandate Elimination Act, sponsored by Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif. The bill repeals a provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 that required businesses to file a Form 1099 with the Internal Revenue Service whenever they made noncredit-card payments totaling $600 or more to a vendor during a single year.

The news follows one month after the House of Representatives voted 314-112 to approve the bill.

In response to the bill’s passing, the National Community Pharmacists Association commended the House and Senate for their efforts. “This bill will allow local pharmacists to spend more time providing expert medication counseling and care to patients and less time filling out paperwork for the IRS," NCPA said. "That’s why NCPA has long been an active member of the Small Business Coalition for Affordable Healthcare, which has been vocal from the start in seeking legislative solutions to this potential problem."

In addition to the NCPA, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores also lauded the decision, noting that it has consistently supported bicameral and bipartisan efforts to repeal the 1099 requirement.

“Repealing the burdensome 1099 provision is in the best interest of economic growth and job creation, and permits pharmacies — the face of neighborhood health care — to provide the most accessible and affordable healthcare services to patients," said NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson. "Everyone is better served when pharmacy can focus on patients, not paperwork."

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PHARMACY

Merck eyes Inspire

BY Allison Cerra

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. — Drug maker Merck is looking to boost its eye care portfolio by acquiring a company focused on developing and commercializing ophthalmic products. The deal carries a cash value of about $430 million.

Merck said Tuesday that through its subsidiary, it will commence a tender offer for all outstanding common stock of Inspire at a price of $5 per share in cash. The offer is a 26% premium to the closing price of Inspire’s common stock on April 4, Merck said. Upon the completion of the tender offer, Merck will acquire all remaining shares through a second-step merger.

Inspire’s president and CEO, Adrian Adams, said the deal will enhance the company’s "long-term potential." The company is known for such products as AzaSite, a bacterial conjunctivitis treatment.

"Merck continues to build upon its long-term commitment to improving therapeutic options for the treatment of eye diseases," said Beverly Lybrand, SVP and general manager of neuroscience and ophthalmology at Merck. "This acquisition combines the talented commercialization organization at Inspire with the excellent team already in place at Merck, thereby strengthening our ophthalmology business and positioning us for future growth with an expanded portfolio. This deal helps address the needs of patients and customers in ophthalmology and creates value for both companies."

The closing of the tender offer will be subject to certain conditions, Merck noted.

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Independent pharmacies earn top scores from Consumer Reports readers

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK — An overwhelming majority of Consumer Reports readers are highly satisfied with their independent pharmacy experiences, as compared with experiences at some of the national chains, a report to be published in the May issue found.

While customers said they generally were satisfied with their pharmacies, some were irked by long waits and lagging service at some big-box stores. "Chalk one up for the little guy," stated Tod Marks, senior editor of Consumer Reports. "We found that the independents made fewer errors, offered swifter service at the pharmacy counter and were more likely to have medications ready for pickup when promised."

More than 90% of Consumer Reports readers gave independent drug stores top scores across the board for pharmacists’ knowledge about drugs and other products, helpfulness and courtesy, speed, accuracy and personal service. Included in this group were McKesson’s HealthMart franchise group and Cardinal Health’s The Medicine Shoppe. Readers who shopped at independents were twice as likely as chain drug store shoppers to characterize their pharmacist as easy to talk to and able to give them a one-on-one consultation.

Almost 1-in-4 Consumer Reports readers fill their prescriptions at big-box stores, up from 14% in 2002, with price cited as an important reason for shopping there. One-in-4 mass merchant shoppers complained of a long wait at the service counter. And when a store was out of a drug, 33% waited for two or more days to get their prescriptions. Almost as many readers reported their pharmacy was out of stock on the medicine they needed at least once in the past year.

More than 1-in-5 cited slow service at the big-box counter as a complaint; and 15% of those surveyed complained that their medicine wasn’t ready for pickup when promised.

Convenience was a key factor in customer satisfaction — almost half of readers surveyed reported that the ability to get in and out quickly with medicine in hand was an important consideration when choosing a drug store.

The full report is available online at ConsumerReportsHealth.org.

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