WASHINGTON Drug Store News, for the simple reason that the change actually hurts the people health reform was supposed to help—patients looking to save money on healthcare costs. —The new prescription requirement for over-the-counter medicines under flexible spending accounts, part of the new Affordable Care Act, may amount to bad medicine, many industry pundits have told
And the ramifications of that simple requirement also will be felt across the retail pharmacies that those in search of healthcare savings patronize.
No matter how you slice it, consumers are looking at increased costs associated with using FSA plans under the new Affordable Care Act. It’s not that there will be any incremental lift in the number of practitioner visits, because no one really believes a consumer now will schedule a doctor’s appointment for the sole purpose of getting a prescription for an OTC. Similarly, no one expects a consumer not to follow through on an intended OTC purchase because it’s no longer reimbursed under FSA accounts without a prescription. But consumers no longer will be able to save against all of those acute care needs for which many consumers never really consult a family practitioner—minor diarrhea or stomach upset, for example, or cold symptom relievers.
Consumers also will be buying more OTC medicines going forward, whether they have an FSA account or not. “The biggest driver of OTC over the next few years [is] going to be individual insurance policy holders with high deductible insurance plans,” said Paul Keckley, executive director of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions.
For those consumers who do consult their doctors about appropriate therapies, there may be an incremental lift in the number of appropriate prescription-only therapies prescribed to these patients versus the number of appropriate nonprescription remedies they may have otherwise taken on their own. For healthcare payers, that means a potential rise in covered costs, as prescription remedies by and large are more expensive than their OTC counterparts. And for retailers, this has the potential of shifting some of their business from the margin-friendly front-end to the paper-thin margins generated across their prescription sales.
For those consumers who do successfully follow through with a prescription for a nonprescription medicine, there’s the cost associated with adjudicating that prescription, a cost that many retailers expect to shoulder on their own. “About 30% of PBM formularies will actually cover an OTC drug… so the consumer will have just a co-pay,” said Jeff Beadle, executive director of SIGIS, an association that helps retailers manage FSA-eligible products through their POS platforms. “It seems that most merchants don’t charge a dispensing fee on those [OTC transactions].”
What’s more, at least in this first year of the rule changes, consumers will have less of a handle on what their actual annual health-care expenditures are. This will be the last year consumers can do any kind of end-of-the-year medicine-cabinet loading on non-prescription remedies in an effort to realize the full value of their FSA accounts. FSA accounts remain use-it-or-lose-it within one calendar year, so if a consumer overestimated his or her annual spend, at the end of 2011 he or she will be left with less-convenient measures of draining that FSA account, like scheduling an eye care appointment or doctor’s visit right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of holiday season.
Categories no longer eligible without a prescription
|Allergy and sinus medicine|
|Anti-itch and insect bite remedies|
|Baby rash ointments/creams|
|Cold sore remedies|
|Cough-cold and flu medicines|
|Feminine antifungal/anti-itch medicines|
|Motion sickness medication|
|Sleep aids and sedatives|
Larger waists linked to diabetes in new study
NEW YORK A new study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found that the nation’s average larger waist circumference is an indicator as to why the diabetes rate in America is higher than the rate in England.
James Smith, corporate chair of economics at the nonprofit organization RAND Corp., and researchers found that American men’s waists were an average of 3 cm (1.5 in.) larger than those of men in England. Similarly, American women’s waists were an average of 5 cm (2 in.) larger than those of women in England.
Analyzing studies about the health and lifestyles of large numbers of people from the United States and England, researchers found no association between higher diabetes rates in the United States based upon such conventional risk factors as age, smoking, socio-economic status or body mass index, the commonly used ratio of height and weight that is used to measure obesity and overweight levels.
"Americans carry more fat around their middle sections than the English, and that was the single factor that explained most of the higher rates of diabetes seen in the United States, especially among American women. Waist size is the missing new risk factor we should be studying," Smith said.
Walgreens commits funds to pharmacy schools
DEERFIELD, Ill. One of the nation’s largest drug store chains is donating $1.1 million to benefit accredited pharmacy schools around the country.
Walgreens said each school will receive $10,000, of which $2,000 will be put toward a Walgreens diversity scholarship to a student who demonstrates a commitment to raising awareness for diversity and community outreach. The remaining $8,000 can be used to develop, implement and support programs that inspire more diversity among the student body. Since 2008, Walgreens has donated more than $3 million to support initiatives dedicated to promoting diversity.
“This is an exciting time for future pharmacists to see what a critical role they will play as patient needs grow and evolve,” said Kermit Crawford, Walgreens president of pharmacy services. “From one-on-one patient consultations to immunizations, health-and-wellness education and community outreach, we want the next generation of talent to know how vital community pharmacy is to meeting today’s healthcare needs.”