PHARMACY

Amgen begins layoffs at Rhode Island facility

BY Adam Kraemer

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. Amgen, one of Rhode Island’s largest employers, has begun reducing its staff as the company prepares to shut down one of the two drug production facilities at its West Greenwich complex, the Providence Journal reported.

A segment of the plant’s 1,600 employees has been offered a buyout package that includes a lump-sum payment, a period of continued health insurance and career counseling, Amgen spokesman Larry Bernard said. Employees who have worked for Amgen less than five years are ineligible. The individual “voluntary transition program” packages, part of a companywide program, are structured based on an employee’s salary and tenure.

Amgen, based in Thousand Oaks, Calif., has not disclosed how many Rhode Island positions will be eliminated as part of an effort, announced Aug. 15, to reduce capital expenses company-wide by $1.9 billion.

The plan, as announced last month, calls for a 14-percent reduction in the company’s worldwide staff. If distributed equally across all facilities, that would mean 224 Rhode Island employees would lose their jobs.

Amgen pointed to the lower revenues from Aranesp and Epogen— due to Food and Drug Administration changes in approved labeling—as a reason for the changes. “At Amgen we have always been committed to investing in the future while squarely facing the challenges of today,” said Kevin Sharer, Amgen’s chairman and chief executive officer. “Recent changes in coverage rules and adjustments to Amgen’s FDA approved labels for Epogen and Aranesp have and will adversely affect Amgen’s revenue. The initiatives announced today respond to that new reality by taking account of reduced revenues and appropriately lowering costs across the company. We will continue to strongly support our research efforts directed at development of new medicines for grievously ill patients. These changes will also position Amgen for success in 2008 and beyond.”

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NACDS applauds Senate efforts to delay tamper-resistant prescription paper deadline

BY Allison Cerra

ALEXANDRIA, Va. The National Association of Chain Drug Stores on Tuesday applauded the Senate passage of a bill that will delay the use of tamper-resistant prescription paper for Medicaid prescriptions.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, Senators Sherrod Brown and George Voinovich (D and R-Ohio, respectively), introduced their legislation, which provides a six-month delay to the Oct. 1 implementation date requiring all Medicaid prescriptions to be written on tamper-resistant prescription paper.

The anti-fraud legislation was created as a provision in an Iraq war bill, which was passed in May. The NACDS has said that though it supports efforts to curb fraud and abuse, they also believe that four months is not enough time for physicians across the country to comply with such a widespread change. As a result, the NACDS applauded the Senate’s efforts to impede the new policy.

NACDS also said that after working with the National Community Pharmacy Association to address the change, they found that more than 535,000 Medicaid physicians validated the concern that many are not aware of this requirement or what they need to do to be in compliance.

“Pharmacists take great pride in their work and serving their patients,” said NACDS president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson. “The possibility of pharmacists being forced to turn away patients from receiving their medication is an unacceptable risk and one that pharmacists should not have to make.”

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Suit vs. big drug wholesaler can go forward, judge rules

BY Jim Frederick

NEW YORK A class-action suit against McKesson Corp. can go forward, a federal judge has ruled, allowing consumers in the suit to pursue claims that the health care service and drug distribution giant engaged in a pricing fraud.

According to a report from the Reuters news agency, U.S. District Court Judge Patti Saris certified the suit after concluding that the plaintiffs in the case had a “persuasive argument” in alleging that McKesson and First Databank together set an artificially high average wholesale price for drugs reimbursed by Medicaid and private insurers. Among the plaintiff class are consumers who made co-payments on branded prescription drugs between 2001 and 2005, according to the report.

McKesson does not comment on pending litigation.

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