PHARMACY

NACDS board presses Congress as health-reform debate intensifies

BY DSN STAFF

NEW YORK Like a mythical Hydra that keeps sprouting new heads, the massive, shape-shifting beast masquerading as the U.S. Senate’s compromise health-reform legislation keeps growing in size, reach and complexity as lawmakers tack on amendments that reflect their own philosophy about the role of government and the nature of the healthcare crisis. And in the midst of the debate, retail-pharmacy leaders are doing their best to make their voices heard.

 

Tuesday’s quick-strike foray on Capitol Hill by leaders of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores was just the most recent of those efforts. But it was certainly one of the most determined and coordinated lobbying campaigns to date in pharmacy’s long battle for recognition and fair compensation for services rendered to a health system in dire need of reform. More than a dozen NACDS board members descended on the House and Senate to appeal in person for a greater stake in whatever healthcare system emerges from the tug of war over health reform.

 

Among retail pharmacy’s top priorities: that Congress legislate a permanent fix for the cockeyed Medicaid reimbursement system. Under current regulations dictated by the Deficit Reduction Act and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, both pharmacies and taxpayers will be penalized for dispensing lower-cost generic drugs to patients on Medicaid under a new reimbursement model based on a skewed reading of the average price paid to manufacturers for those drugs.

The most essential element of any health reform package, pharmacy advocates argue, must be a fair reimbursement model for the community pharmacists who dispense medications and patient-care services. That means setting payment standards for a menu of patient intervention and counseling services – all of which could boost wellness and disease prevention, thus saving the health system big sums of money. It also means establishing a reimbursement model for Medicare and Medicaid prescriptions that doesn’t penalize pharmacies for dispensing generics, or force them to dispense those drugs at a loss.

The industry leaders who descended on Washington this week also urged lawmakers and their staffs to ensure a role for community pharmacists in the delivery of medication therapy management in any health reform package – and to keep the from erecting new barriers to the sale by retail pharmacies of durable medical equipment and supplies.

Like most of what pharmacy is after, the latter request shouldn’t even have to be made. It seems obvious enough to those of us who know this industry that pharmacists are already perfectly qualified to sell DME, diabetic supplies and other products without having to jump through a new set of expensive and time-consuming legal hoops to be able to continue doing so. But given the general ignorance of pharmacy’s health care value that still runs rampant among too many lawmakers and health policy “experts,” it’s a battle that must be fought.

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PHARMACY

HIV vaccine ‘modestly effective’ in late-stage clinical trial

BY Alaric DeArment

LYON, France A late-stage clinical trial may have turned up something that researchers have awaited for nearly 30 years: an HIV vaccine that works.

Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines division of French drug maker Sanofi-Aventis, announced Thursday that results of a 16,000-patient phase 3 trial conducted in Thailand over the last six years, with sponsorship from the U.S. Army Surgeon General and execution by the Thai Ministry of Public Health, indicate that a two-vaccine regimen for HIV is safe and “modestly” effective in preventing infection by the virus that causes AIDS.

According to final results, to be presented in Paris next month, the prime-boost combination of Sanofi Pasteur’s ALVAC HIV and VaxGen’s AIDSVAX B/E lowered the rate of HIV infection by 31.2% compared with placebo.

“Albeit modest, the reduction of risk of HIV infection is statistically significant,” Sanofi Pasteur SVP research and development Michel DeWilde said in a statement. “This is the first concrete evidence, since the discovery of the virus in 1983, that a vaccine against HIV is eventually feasible.”

DeWilde said further work would be needed to develop and test a vaccine suitable for licensure and worldwide use.

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Study finds chronic disease prevention reduces medical costs

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK Prevention of such chronic diseases as diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure improves the lives of older Americans and also reduces medical costs, a new study found.

The study, conducted by Dana Goldman of RAND Corp. and colleagues, appeared in the Sept. 17 online edition and in the November print issue of the American Journal of Public Health. The researchers looked at a group of adults ages 51 to 52, and found that life longevity when chronic diseases were avoided increased between  0.85 and 3.44 years, depending on which disease was prevented.

In addition to these findings, the researchers also found lifetime medical costs would be saved: Preventing obesity would save $7,168; preventing high blood pressure would save $13,702; and preventing diabetes would save $34,483. However, the lifetime medical costs for a person who quits smoking would be $15,959 higher, the researchers noted.

“Our data indicate that primary prevention could improve the health and longevity of future cohorts of elderly persons in the United States at a relatively low cost,” the researchers concluded.

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