HEALTH

Express Scripts, expanding PBM reach, agrees to buy WellPoint’s NextRx unit

BY Drug Store News Team

NEW YORK And then there were three.

 

With the decision by insurance giant Wellpoint to get out of the business of managing and coordinating pharmacy benefits for some 25 million of its members, the field of battle among the competing pharmacy benefit management firms will soon narrow. If the deal is approved, three large-scale players – CVS Caremark, Express Scripts and Medco Health – will control the pharmacy use patterns of well over 100 million Americans and account for more than 2 billion prescriptions dispensed annually in the Untied States.

 

 

The deal to buy Wellpoint’s PBM business, the nation’s fourth-largest, marks something of a vindication for Express Scripts, which lost a battle for control of Caremark to CVS two years ago. If successful in its bid – the deal must still pass muster with federal antitrust regulators – Express Scripts could add as many as 25 million patients to its PBM rolls and boost its managed prescription business by half, to some 750 million scripts dispensed annually by its pharmacy network.

 

 

Express Scripts chairman and CEO George Paz made it clear the company’s focus going forward would be to streamline pharmacy benefits and cut costs – both for Express Scripts and for its corporate clients who pay the prescription bills – by trying to shift more plan members to generics. Those cost-cutting efforts are also likely to spur more preventive-health programs and pharmacy interventions for the patients Express Scripts covers.

 

 

“Now more than ever, as the nation focuses on health care reform, this collaboration between Express Scripts and WellPoint represents a shared commitment to achieving optimal health outcomes while driving out wasteful spending,” said Paz in a written statement.

 

 

Citing the nation’s financial crisis, the leader of the nation’s largest PBM underscored the urgent need within the managed care industry to cut costs and boost preventive-care efforts on behalf of employers earlier this month.

 

 

“The current economic environment has understandably created a sense of urgency for companies to evaluate their benefit designs in order to meet financial goals, with 74 percent of our employer clients telling us that reducing overall health costs is their number one measure of success in the coming year,” said CVS Caremark chairman, president and CEO Tom Ryan. “Furthermore, our research indicates that our clients are looking to CVS Caremark to help them accomplish these savings by increasing plan participant engagement in their health care rather than simply increasing their share of the cost.”

 

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Thrive Allergy Expo kicks off in Chicago

BY Michael Johnsen

CHICAGO The Thrive Allergy Expo will be kicking off its inaugural consumer expo this weekend, April 18 and 19, at the McCormick Place, providing consumers education and samples around a number of allergy-related conditions.

Thrive will present speakers across two platforms — the Healthy Living Forum and Marketplace Forum.

At the Healthy Living Forum, the Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America, American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, American Lung Association, Children’s Memorial Hospital: Food Allergy Study, MedicAlert, University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center and the Gluten Intolerance Group will speak on both days of the event. Discussion topics and presentations include asthma, eczema, food allergies, Celiac Disease and precautions and avoidance tips to increase allergy safety.

At the Marketplace Forum speakers include Twinject, the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immnology, AllergyZone, Gluten Intolerance Group, Lisa Cooks Allergen Free, Merchant du Vin, and authors Jules Shepard and Kim Koeller. Anaphylaxis, indoor air quality, evolution of gluten-free beer, how to keep a gluten-free kitchen and how to safely eat out with food allergies and Celiac Disease are some of the topics that will be addressed at this Forum.

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Stem cells may curb insulin use for Type 1 diabetes patients, study finds

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK An experimental stem-cell treatment for juvenile-onset diabetes kept patients off insulin for at least a year, according to published reports.

According to WebMD, of patients recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes who received the treatment, more than half were able to go without insulin for at least a year, and four patients managed to go without it for at least three years. The treatment also uses drugs to suppress the immune system, however, and two of the patients contracted pneumonia.

The original study appears in the April 15 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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