PHARMACY

Walgreens’ bottom line: ‘No. 1 priority is to take care of the patients’

BY Michael Johnsen

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — It’s been a big week for Walgreens. Following its exit from Express Scripts’ pharmacy network, the pharmacy retailer introduced a new program to help patients either keep their pharmacy home at Walgreens or to help transition them to a new pharmacy. Why help transition customers to the competition? Because it’s the right thing to do. As Greg Wasson told DSN editor Rob Eder in an exclusive interview, "our No. 1 priority is to take care of patients."

(THE NEWS: Walgreens releases patient-level strategy to either keep or help transition ESI prescriptions. For the full story, click here. To listen to DSN’s exclusive interview with Greg Wasson, Walgreens president and CEO, click here.)

That’s quite a contrast from Express Scripts CEO George Paz, who stated during a recent Senate hearing, "You know, I can’t stop certain pharmacies from going out of business." Paz and Express Scripts have a priority-driven edict, only one would imagine Paz might say something along the lines of: "Our No. 1 priority is to take care of our customer’s patients, you know, in the event those patients want to take advantage of the 90-day prescriptions we offer through mail order, then we can help transition those patients to the pharmacy services we provide in place of directing them to our customer." To be perfectly fair, however, we don’t know what Paz would say as he declined to be interviewed by Drug Store News.

Walgreens’ worst day, in terms of its Express Scripts squabbles, is behind them. That was Jan. 1, when the most patients Walgreens could lose actually were lost. From here, it’s a matter of recapturing any lost business, either one patient at a time through programs like Walgreens’ discount prescription drug program, or one employer/healthcare payer at a time — Wasson suggested a lot of employers plan to sign with a PBM that includes Walgreens in its network as soon as they are contractually able to do so.

And by the looks of it, employers and healthcare payers aren’t the only ones who want the choice of Walgreens in their prescription drug network. In the first week of January, RetireSafe, a lobbying group representing seniors sent a letter to Express Scripts urging "Express Scripts to put the health and safety of retired Americans first and to return swiftly to contract negotiations with Walgreens." It was not disclosed whether RetireSafe employees are covered through Express Scripts, but many of the association’s constituents are.

Of interest, if you look through the board of directors on RetireSafe’s website you’ll find Charles Partridge, government relations director of the American Military Society, an association representing active-duty and retired members of the armed forces. Partridge also is a member of the Department of Defense TRICARE Beneficiary Advisory Committee. TRICARE represents a significant portion of the Express Scripts prescription plan business.

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PHARMACY

Sandoz launches authorized generic shampoo for severe scalp psoriasis

BY Alaric DeArment

PRINCETON, N.J. — Sandoz has launched a shampoo used to treat severe scalp psoriasis, the generic drug maker said.

Sandoz announced the introduction of clobetasol propionate shampoo in the 0.05% strength, an authorized generic version of Galderma Labs’ Clobex. An authorized generic drug is a branded drug sold under its generic name, usually by a third-party company at a reduced price.

Various versions of the shampoo had sales of about $54.9 million during the 12-month period ended in October 2011, according to IMS Health.

 


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Achillion receives fast-track designation for hepatitis C drug

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The Food and Drug Administration has granted fast-track designation to a drug currently under development by Achillion Pharmaceuticals for hepatitis C, the company said.

The agency gave the designation to ACH-1625, a once-daily protease inhibitor that the company said could offer improved safety and tolerability, compared with existing drugs, convenience, fewer adverse interactions with drugs used to treat HIV and liver transplants and broader genotypic coverage of the virus. Current treatments typically involve a combination of oral pharmaceuticals and injected interferons, a type of biotech drug.

"We are very pleased with the granting of a fast track designation for ACH-1625, which we believe highlights this protease inhibitor’s attributes which include broad genotypic coverage of HCV, once-daily administration and an improved safety, efficacy and tolerability profile over currently approved therapies for HCV," Achillion president and CEO Michael Kishbauch said. "As we work toward achieving our near-term milestones, we remain eager to initiate an interferon-free, all-oral combination clinical study evaluating our protease inhibitor plus NS5A inhibitor for the treatment of HCV during the second half of this year."

Fast-track designation gives a drug maker greater access to the FDA and allows it to submit data for a regulatory approval application on a rolling basis while also opening the possibility for priority review by the agency.


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