HEALTH

‘Smoking Sucks,’ but quitting doesn’t with new cessation lollipops

BY Allison Cerra

WEST HILLS, Calif. Kicking the habit never tasted so good.

Three Lollies, the maker of PreggiePops and QueasyDrops, has launched Smoking Sucks lollipops for those looking to quit smoking. The new line of smoking-cessation pops are formulated with essential oils and amino acids, including L-tryptophan, which is a naturally occurring amino acid that some sources believe may help with cravings when people are attempting to quit smoking, Three Lollies said.

The pops are available in wintergreen, pineapple and cinnamon varieties.

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Fresh & Easy develops line for kids

BY Allison Cerra

SAN DIEGO Fresh & Easy is promoting its new line of products aimed at childhood nutrition.

The line, fresh&easy Goodness, is made using such wholesome, natural foods as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, as well as other foods that are good sources of vitamins and minerals. Fresh&easy Goodness products also contain no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives, no added trans fats and no high-fructose corn syrup.

"We fundamentally believe every family deserves access to fresh, wholesome food at affordable prices," said Fresh & Easy CEO Tim Mason. "Everything we do derives from listening to our customers, and one thing we’ve heard consistently from parents is that they are looking for ways to feed their children high-quality, nutritious foods without stretching their budgets. Fresh&easy Goodness for kids offers an affordable and convenient solution for busy parents that won’t break the bank."

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Efforts to combat Medicare fraud draw mixed signals from indies, PBMs

BY Jim Frederick

WASHINGTON The independent pharmacy and pharmacy benefit management industries both praised new efforts by Congress and the Obama administration to end the fraudulent and abusive billing practices that plague Medicare and Medicaid and cost U.S. taxpayers tens of billions of dollars. But their recommendations for combating the problem are as different as their approaches to the pharmaceutical market.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services proposed new regulations to help prevent what the agency said is $55 billion in annual improper payments to providers and health plans. In a related development, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health is looking at ways to attack the problem, and held a hearing Thursday titled, “Cutting Fraud, Waste and Abuse in Medicare and Medicaid.”

The National Community Pharmacists Association weighed in with a statement to the House panel that accused the pharmacy benefit management industry of responsibility for much of the abuse, which the group attributed to a “past record of alleged systematic chicanery.”

In its statement, the independent pharmacy lobby reminded lawmakers of numerous allegations of fraud by major PBMs, as well as “misrepresentation to plans, patients and providers; improper therapeutic solutions; unjust enrichment through secret kickback schemes; and failure to meet ethical and safety standards.” The group urged Congress to pass legislation “to rein in the waste being generated by the business practices of pharmacy benefit managers under Medicare and Medicaid,” and to increase the transparency of PBM audit practices.

Not surprisingly, the response from the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, the main PBM industry advocacy group, was markedly different. Responding to new proposed regulations from CMS to combat fraud and abuse, PCMA president and CEO Mark Merritt said the government’s focus should be on preventing abuse rather than on pursuing wrongdoers after the fact for fraudulent billing practices. “Pharmacy benefit managers agree that prevention, not ‘pay and chase,’ is the key to fighting fraud,” Merritt noted. “Unfortunately, some public policies undermine the fight against fraud by requiring payers to include pharmacies in their networks that have been banned from federal programs.”

Merritt also reiterated PCMA’s call for legislation to eliminate legislative “prompt-pay” requirements that force pharmacy benefit plans to quickly pay prescription claims, raising again a major source of friction between the PBM and retail pharmacy industries. Policies that require payers to “accelerate payments,” PCMA’s leader charged, leave “less time to detect and prevent fraudulent Medicare claims before payments are made.”

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