Independents’ lobby urges changes to health-reform bill passed in House
NEW YORK Like their chain pharmacy counterparts, the people who own and operate their own single-store or small-chain drug stores — as well as the advocacy groups that lobby on their behalf — are keeping close tabs on the progress of the various health-reform bills moving through the U.S. Senate and House. They should. Independent pharmacists have been hammered hardest by the steady evaporation of profit margins at the hands of managed care payment plans over the past two decades, and their numbers and market penetration across the United States have diminished as a result.
Despite the well-documented problems independents have had to surmount, however, the owner-operated drug store industry continues to assert itself, both on Main Street U.S.A. and in both houses of Congress. Thanks to the grassroots activism of thousands of pharmacy owners, a well-funded political action committee and capable leadership at the National Community Pharmacists Association and other groups, many lawmakers have gotten a clear message about the value community pharmacists bring to the health care system at the neighborhood level.
The “Affordable Health Care for America Act” now advancing in the House of Representatives “doesn’t go far enough” in assuring a fair profit for independent pharmacists, NCPA EVP and CEO Bruce Roberts asserted several days ago. But it does contain “many provisions that we can support,” he told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a letter Nov. 5.Among the bill’s pharmacy—friendly features:
- A more generous formula for establishing a payment standard for Medicaid generic prescriptions, based on the “weighted average” of a drug’s market price, rather than the lowest price obtained for the drug by a manufacturer;
- A process to establish new transparency and reporting requirements for pharmacy benefit managers that participate in the “health exchange” envisioned by the White House and Congress to boost patient choice of insurance plans;
- A plan to exempt qualified retail pharmacies from new accreditation and insurance requirements imposed on firms that sell durable medical equipment and supplies to Medicare Part B enrollees;
- Establishment of a grant program to test new and innovative methods of delivering medication therapy management by pharmacists, especially in treating chronic conditions;
- Help for seniors who hit the Medicare Part D drug coverage gap known as the “donut hole.”
The inclusion of those elements in the “Affordable Health Care” bill reflect the hard lobbying work done in recent years by grassroots pharmacy owners, NCPA, the American Pharmacists Association and other groups. Drug store owner-operators have aggressively courted their own congressional representatives, both as local business people contributing to the financial health of their districts, and as community-based resources for patient health and disease management. And the national organizations — including the National Association of Chain Drug Stores — have been effective at reaching legislators with a consistent message about pharmacy’s value and patient access.
There’s still plenty of work to be done as the community pharmacy lobby works to shape health reform legislation. None of the bills under consideration in the House and Senate fully embrace the value pharmacy could bring to a redesigned health care system that’s more cost-effective, patient-centered and outcomes-driven. To reach that goal, pharmacy leaders say, Congress and the White House will have to assure a fair reimbursement and a broader, more defined role for the pharmacy profession.
“Patients’ well-being,” said Roberts, “can either be compromised or enhanced depending on Congress’ actions.”
Sanofi Pasteur releases data on H1N1 vaccine
SWIFTWATER, Pa. Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines division of the Sanofi-Aventis Group, on Wednesday announced the final analyses of data from clinical trials of the U.S. licensed influenza A(H1N1) 2009 monovalent vaccine in adults and children.
The data confirm the immunogenicity and safety profile of the vaccine, with no serious vaccine-related adverse events reported during the 42 days of follow-up in the two trials.
“These are extremely important data,” stated Wayne Pisano, president and CEO of Sanofi Pasteur, “because they once again make clear not only the immunogenicity of the influenza A(H1N1) 2009 monovalent vaccine manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur, but also the fact that this vaccine has a safety profile similar to that typically observed with seasonal influenza vaccine in all age groups studied.”
The trials also confirm that one dose of influenza A(H1N1) 2009 monovalent vaccine induces a robust antibody response in adults — but two doses of vaccine are needed to assure a robust antibody response in children 9 years of age and younger. The two-dose regimen for these younger children is similar to the recommendations for seasonal influenza immunization in this age group.
CVS Caremark, NCOA kick off Medicare Part D educational events
WOONSOCKET, R.I. CVS Caremark and the National Council on Aging announced on Thursday the kick-off of Medicare Part D educational events in an effort to urge older adults and their caregivers to review their Medicare Part D options to find the lowest cost plan to meet their needs.
“Plan review can seem cumbersome, but completing a plan comparison each year is an essential step toward saving,” stated Mitch Betses, VP retail pharmacy operations at CVS Caremark. “Tools like the Medicare Part D Calculator are designed to simplify the process to help older adults and their caregivers select a plan that provides them with the greatest value and peace of mind.”
A CVS/pharmacy analysis of more than 10,000 older Americans using the Medicare Part D Savings Calculator last year revealed plan participants could save an average of $612 in annual drug costs by just switching to their optimal Medicare Part D plan.
CVS/pharmacy is launching a campaign to assist seniors and their caregivers realize savings on 2010 prescription costs through education and assistance on plan comparison. Starting Thursday, CVS/pharmacy and the NCOA are offering Medicare Part D educational events throughout the annual enrollment period at senior centers nationwide. They are urging patients to consider the Three C’s when evaluating plans: Cost, Coverage and Convenience.
Customers can also go online at CVS.com/medicare to use the free Medicare Part D Savings Calculator. In addition, CVS pharmacists are available throughout the enrollment period to provide plan comparison in stores for those who would like assistance.