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Biosimilars could bring down specialty drug spending

BY Alaric DeArment

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT If Medicare Part D is to remain solvent in the future, then lawmakers may want to take a closer look at the more than 10% of spending on drugs under the program that has gone toward specialty drugs — some of the most expensive drugs on the market — and find ways to come up with cheaper alternatives.

(THE NEWS: GAO: Specialty drugs accounted for 10% of Medicare Part D spending in 2007. For the full story, click here)

The Government Accountability Office reported that of the $54.4 billion spent on prescription drugs under Medicare Part D in 2007, $5.6 billion went toward specialty drugs. Many specialty drugs — particularly those for cancer and autoimmune disorders, are biologics — which can cost thousands of dollars for a month’s supply and for which no generic alternatives are available. In addition, while Alzheimer’s disease often falls outside the traditional “specialty” realm, many treatments for it in the pipeline are biologics as well.

One way to save money to patients and the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services alike would be to create an abbreviated regulatory approval pathway for follow-on biologics, also known as biosimilars and biogenerics, similar to the one that has existed for generic pharmaceutical drugs since 1984.

As long as it gave innovator companies ample opportunity to recoup their investments and didn’t leave patients and payers waiting too long before biosimilars became available, such a pathway could go a long way toward bringing down the costs associated with cutting-edge treatments.

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Costco notes 11% jump in Q2

BY Alaric DeArment

ISSAQUAH, Wash. Costco got an 11% boost in sales for the second quarter of fiscal year 2010, compared with second quarter 2009, according to financial results announced Wednesday by the membership-based mass merchandising chain.

The company had $18.36 billion in sales, compared with $16.49 billion in second quarter 2009. Sales for the first half of fiscal year 2010 were $35.28 billion, an 8% increase over $32.52 in the second half of fiscal year 2009.

Profits for the quarter were $299 million, compared with $239 million in second quarter 2009, while year-to-date profits for the first half of the fiscal year were $565 million, compared with $502 million during the same period last year.

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Rite Aid reports drop in monthly sales

BY Michael Johnsen

CAMP HILL, Pa. Rite Aid reported weak sales for the month of February.

For the five weeks ended Feb. 27, the drug store chain said Thursday its same-store sales, front-end same-store sales and pharmacy same-store sales all decreased 3.2%.

Rite Aid contributed its drop in pharmacy same-store sales were negatively impacted from new generic introductions. Prescriptions filled at comparable stores decreased 3.4% over the prior-year period.

Front-end and pharmacy same store sales were negatively impacted by a weaker cough, cold and flu season than in the like period last year, Rite Aid said. Front-end sales were also negatively affected by severe weather, especially in the northeast and south, and continued weak consumer demand.

Meanwhile, total drug store sales for the five-week period decreased 4.5% to $2.43 billion, compared with $2.55 billion for the same period last year. Prescription revenue accounted for 67.% of drugstore sales, and third party prescription revenue represented 95.8% of pharmacy sales.

As of Feb. 27, Rite Aid operated 4,780 stores, compared with 4,901 stores in the like period a year ago.

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