PHARMACY

Welchol oral suspension now can be mixed with fruit juice, diet soft drinks or water

BY Alaric DeArment

PARSIPPANY, N.J. — The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new means of administration for a drug made by Daiichi Sankyo, the drug maker said Monday.

Daiichi Sankyo announced the FDA approval of Welchol (colesevelam hydrochloride) for oral suspension to be mixed with fruit juice or diet soft drinks. The drug, used to improve blood-sugar control and cholesterol levels in patients with Type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol, received approval in 2009 for mixing with water.

“Since the approval of once-daily Welchol for oral suspension, we’ve seen that patients appreciate the flexible dosing options provided by Welchol, taken as tablets with a meal and liquid or as a drinkable formulation with a meal, to help them reach their [LDL cholesterol] and A1C goals,” Daiichi Sankyo medical director for medical research and head of strategy therapeutic areas Oliseyenum Nwose said. “We are pleased that patients, depending on their preference, can now choose to mix their Welchol for oral suspension with fruit juice, diet soft drinks or water.”

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PHARMACY

Good Neighbor Pharmacy names national award winners

BY Michael Johnsen

LAS VEGAS — Good Neighbor Pharmacy last week recognized five Good Neighbor Pharmacy operators at the National Healthcare Conference and Exposition.

Liss Pharmacy in Newark, N.J., was named the 2011 Good Neighbor Pharmacy “Pharmacy of the Year” for its commitment to the Newark community. Led by owner Matthew Parisi, the pharmacy has created programs in conjunction with both the city of Newark and the Heinz Family Philanthropies to provide pharmaceutical services and generic medications at a reasonable cost, for example.

“Liss Pharmacy is committed to reaching out to the community, creating a larger patient base and providing high-quality and innovative professional healthcare services, while working to maintain the unique qualities of their neighborhood,” Good Neighbor Pharmacy president Mike Cantrell said.

Meanwhile, Jacinta Hines of J&J Arrowhead Pharmacy in Glendale, Ariz., was awarded the 2011 Good Neighbor Pharmacist of the Year. Hines has developed partnerships with physicians in area hospitals and provides complementary services, including serving as a substance abuse counselor. “This award honors a pharmacist who excels at leadership, community service and participation in professional programs. Dr. Hines has shown this through her dedication of her studies and passion for her store, her patients and her community,” Cantrell said.

Other awards included:

  • Caring for the Community Award: KTA Puainako Pharmacy. What started as a 500-sq.-ft. grocery and dry goods store has become a healthcare destination and community hub for residents of Hilo, Hawaii. Kerri Okamura, director of pharmacy for KTA Puainako Pharmacy, has made it her goal to make a big difference on the island by reducing the number of Hawaiians who are affected by such diseases as diabetes and heart disease;

  • Innovations in Technology Award: Florida Medical Clinic Pharmacy. As this year’s recipient of the Innovations in Technology award from Good Neighbor Pharmacy, Florida Medical Clinic Pharmacy is reducing financial burdens while increasing the quality of care through the use of technology within a pharmacy setting. Chip Harmon, director of Pharmacy for Florida Medical Clinic Pharmacy, knows how important patient compliance and guidance are for his community, so adding an interactive voice response system helped patients refill medications 24 hours a day and sent reminders to patients to pick up their medications, decreasing the number of unclaimed prescriptions; and

  • Outstanding Advertising of the Year Award: West Main Pharmacy. Creative thinking, determination and a memorable mural are critical parts of the advertising strategy created by West Main Pharmacy of Medford, Ore., and the results are paying off with major growth in prescriptions and an increased ability to compete with other stores, Good Neighbor Pharmacy noted. It is this collection of accomplishments that earned them the Good Neighbor Pharmacy Outstanding Advertising Award for 2011. Mark DiTommaso, owner of West Main Pharmacy, is known for the red, white and blue mural on the outside of his pharmacy. The pharmacy created a delivery van to match the mural, along with store brochures, a website and television advertisements.

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PHARMACY

Does ESI need Medco deal to happen? It sure looks like it

BY Rob Eder

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — In his July 20 letter to benefit consultants, Walgreens president of pharmacy, health and wellness Kermit Crawford made a direct appeal to plan sponsors to either “select a PBM that includes Walgreens” or consider “direct arrangements with plans currently using Express Scripts, to the extent permitted by their contracts.” The letter also included an attached “template agreement that can be used to implement such direct arrangements where permitted,” for consideration.

(THE NEWS: PBM giants Express Scripts, Medco to merge. For the full story, click here)

Walgreens believed that the short-term loss of the ESI business would be far less than the long-term impact of accepting ESI’s proposed terms. ESI believed it could live without Walgreens, boasting that it has another ESI network pharmacy store on average within half-mile of any Walgreens pharmacy. “While perhaps technically true, Walgreens has 40+ percent market share in many major cities,” noted pharmacy economics consultant Adam Fein in his Drug Channels blog. “And how could Express Scripts service a client where Walgreens has a worksite pharmacy?”

Further, Fein observed, if Walgreens chooses to remain in other PBM networks, such as Medco and Caremark, ESI will be at a major disadvantage during the next PBM selling season.

Of course, all of this was before the July 21 bombshell announcement that ESI would attempt to merge with PBM giant Medco in a $29 billion deal that would find the new company 59%-owned by ESI shareholders, and led by ESI CEO George Paz, who would become chairman and CEO.

But that’s not exactly a slam-dunk, either. ESI tried and failed to wrestle Caremark away from CVS in 2007, but was unable to convince antitrust regulators and its own shareholders before CVS could pull the trigger. That was former President Bush’s Federal Trade Commission. These days, you likely can expect a much more cynical assessment from antitrust regulators who will wonder if the combined entity would stifle competition. Under ObamaCare, the government becomes the largest healthcare payer in America, so you better believe regulators will have their “I smell a rat” detectors set on high. Then there’s pharma, which will spend now to avoid being nickled and dimed later by a bigger, badder ESI-Medco combination. Then, there’s retail pharmacy — within 24 hours both the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association had come out against the deal, citing that there is no way the combined ESI-Medco would maintain a level playing field between retail and its own giant mail order business.

According to estimates, the new company would control anywhere about 40% of retail prescriptions processed, and almost half of the U.S. mail order pharmacy business.

It appears that it may be some time before the situation is resolved, and that there will be some uncertainty out there going into the next PBM selling season. It is expected that the deal if it were to be approved, wouldn’t officially close until the first half of 2012. The first half of 2012 ends about a year from now. That oddly enough could give Walgreens even more leverage here, as big payers will be left with a choice of gambling on the new ESI-Medco combination, opting for CVS Caremark instead, or working directly with Walgreens. You can bet that Walgreens will amp up the message and keep the pressure on with payers and benefit consultants.

So, does Walgreens needs ESI? Maybe not. But it sure looks like ESI needs the Medco deal to happen.

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