CDC, Reckitt Benckiser develop site to promote good health, hygiene
NEW YORK On the surface, this news highlights how serious the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention take that “prevention” piece of their title. The fact of the matter is the novel H1N1 influenza pandemic, the virus that ran rampant in the spring, giving the United States a little taste of what could come, will be the top billing this coming cough-cold-flu season. To date, the virus has not mutated in the past few months as it ran its course through the influenza season of the southern hemisphere, which means that Americans can expect more of the same here — an influenza strain that produces illness severity comparable to the seasonal flu but that favors younger people because they have no antibodies in reserve against this novel H1N1 virus.
Younger people not only means the twenty- and thirtysomethings in the workforce, it also means their school-age children. And given that children are oftentimes blamed for spreading colds and flu in a typical year, it only goes to reason that children may be a good spreader of the H1N1 pandemic virus, too. With this partnership, the CDC is making a robust effort in educating both children and their parents in proper cold/flu etiquette, because the cheapest way to nip this bug from the get-go is to inhibit its spread.
Going one level deeper, it also shows how quickly today’s administration will turn to private business in an attempt “to get things done.” The assumption here is that it’s not the CDC putting up the funds to launch this Web site, but Reckitt Benckiser. And in turn, Reckitt Benckiser gets a very credible driver around its Lysol disinfectant brand.
That bodes well for retail pharmacy and the healthcare companies that supply them. Because it bears a recognition what the private sector brings to the table — ready access to consumers who may be more apt to pay attention when the credibility of government agencies like CDC is married to the credibility associated with a venerable brand. Today it’s Reckitt Benckiser’s Lysol. Tomorrow it could very well be CVS or Walgreens.
Special delivery: Walmart expands mail offering
NEW YORK Walmart isn’t letting the lack of a physical presence in select Midwestern and Northeastern markets hinder its ability to offer prescription drugs, thanks to the expansion of a mail-order program begun earlier this year in Michigan. The program enables customers to receive a 90-day supply of approximately 300 generics for $10 via free mail delivery, or any of approximately 3,000 other pharmaceuticals that the company offers.
“Americans deserve access to quality, affordable health care and medications, yet some families today aren’t filling prescriptions because of high costs or lack of health insurance,” said Dr. John Agwunobi, SVP and president of Walmart’s health and wellness division. “Walmart strives to find innovative new pharmacy solutions that better serve all of our customers’ needs, which is why we’re so excited to offer this program to even more Americans. With this program, we’re able to provide our customers in every rural town or big city across the Midwest and Northeast with more affordable prescription medicines through a convenient, free mail delivery system.”
In a swipe at some of its competitors, Walmart noted that its program has no gimmicks, membership requirements or enrollment fees, and it’s part of the company’s ongoing commitment to help people save money on prescriptions, regardless of whether they live close to a Walmart pharmacy location.
States affected by expansion of the Michigan mail-order program include: Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington DC, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Teva launches ‘Patient First’ project
NEW YORK Most consumers may not know a lot about biosimilar equivalence, immunogenicity or what “monoclonal antibody” means, but they know that battling a chronic disease can be a frightening and financially devastating prospect. Teva’s new TV campaign is a very sobering reminder of what many already know at a time when all of America is focused on fixing health care.
On one end of the continuum of prescription drug prices lies generic drugs purchased under one of the growing number of generic discount programs offered by retailers for less than $50 a year. On the other end lies biotech drugs that can cost nearly half a million dollars a year.
This is a reminder to politicians and voters that for many patients, manageable diseases carry unmanageable costs. This especially is true for such diseases as cancer, multiple sclerosis and paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria. Rob Day, one of the patients profiled in the “Patient First” campaign — itself a part of the broader Year of Affordable Healthcare campaign — was diagnosed with PNH at age 19 and must pay $389,000 a year for biotech drugs to treat it.
While $389,000 is an extreme example, most biotech drugs remain incredibly expensive: A year’s supply of Genentech’s breast cancer drug Herceptin (trastuzumab) costs about $40,000, while a single vial of Elan Corp.’s multiple sclerosis drug Tysabri (natalizumab) costs more than $2,000. Setting up a regulatory environment that allows expensive biotech drugs to face competition from biosimilars would help to alleviate the fears and financial strain of some patients living with chronic illnesses.