Uniting on Capitol, indies press for patient access
WASHINGTON —In case members of Congress had forgotten just how critical the nation’s community pharmacists are to patient access and the future of health care, nearly 500 independent pharmacy owners flocked to Capitol Hill last month to remind them.
The occasion was the National Community Pharmacists Association’s 42nd Annual Conference on Legislation and Government Affairs. Pharmacy representatives spent three days in one-on-one meetings and large-scale forums with lawmakers to air their concerns about issues addressed by the massive health-reform bill signed into law earlier this year.
Among the topics addressed: reimbursement for patient-care services like medication therapy management, new transparency rules for pharmacy benefit management companies and the right of independent pharmacies to sell diabetic supplies and durable medical equipment without restrictions or expensive insurance provisions. Attendees also thanked lawmakers for including pro-patient, pro-pharmacy provisions in the health-reform law and discussed its implementation and new bipartisan legislation.
“Each year, the federal government’s influence over independent community pharmacies grows as does our members’ commitment to educating decision-makers…while providing constructive solutions,” said NCPA EVP and CEO Bruce Roberts. “The attendees…came here to help ensure that congressional and federal officials are creating a level playing field that allows independent community pharmacies to continue working to improve health outcomes and reduce costs.”
“One of our focuses at NCPA…was to have a stronger voice in Washington, and if you look at what’s happened over time with this legislative conference, that’s one piece of the puzzle,” Roberts told reporters at the event. “Just a few years ago, we had 100 pharmacists showing up. Today, we’re approaching 500 pharmacists at this meeting.”
Among the priorities NCPA members raised with lawmakers: reining in the power of pharmacy benefit managers and what NCPA calls their opaque business practices. To that end, the group strongly backs congressional moves to impose new transparency requirements on the PBM industry.
The conference generated some 200 congressional visits, at which NCPA members pressed lawmakers for co-sponsorship and passage of bills that would require PBMs to disclose more about their pricing and operating practices, and eliminate barriers to the sale of diabetic products and DME.
Attendees also heard from officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, including the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Federal Trade Commission and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Several U.S. senators and members of Congress also addressed pharmacy owners.
The event concluded May 12 with a rally in front of the U.S. Capitol.
Pennsylvania boosts pharmacists’ role; NACDS hails bid for collaboration
ALEXANDRIA, Va. In a gesture hailed by retail pharmacy advocates, the Keystone State is moving to expand the role its pharmacists play in improving patient health and outcomes.
The move comes with enactment of a Pennsylvania law, H.B. 1041, which will open new opportunities for collaborative medication therapy management between physicians and pharmacists on behalf of patients in a community pharmacy setting. Previously, such team approaches were permitted only in such institutional settings as hospitals and nursing homes in the state.
The National Association of Chain Drug Stores had high praise for the new law, calling it an “important victory,” and citing the efforts made by the Pennsylvania Association of Chain Drug Stores and the Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association toward its passage. “With the enactment of this legislation, Pennsylvania has said ‘yes’ to improving the health and lives of patients, and to reducing overall healthcare costs,” said NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson. “This new law recognizes the expertise of pharmacists, the accessibility of community pharmacy and the ability of pharmacists to help patients properly manage their health conditions for the well-being of patients and for the good of society.”
Pennsylvania is the 33rd state to allow collaborative drug therapy management in the community setting, according to NACDS research. “Nine states allow it in institutional settings only, and eight do not allow it at all,” noted the group Friday.
Taro receives FDA approval for Kytril generic
HAWTHORNE, N.Y. Taro Pharmaceutical Industries has received approval from the Food and Drug Administration to market its generic version of a drug used to prevent nausea and vomiting in patients on chemotherapy, the Israeli generic drug maker said Friday.
The FDA approved Taro’s granisetron hydrochloride tablets in the 1-mg strength. The tablets are a generic version of Roche’s Kytril tablets.
Granisetron tablets had sales of around $15 million in 2009, according to unnamed industry sources cited by Taro.