PHARMACY

Calif. AG announces plan to combat prescription drug abuse

BY Drew Buono

SAN FRANCISCO California Attorney General Jerry Brown unveiled a plan Wednesday to provide doctors and pharmacists with almost instant Internet access to patient prescription drug histories to help prevent so-called doctor shopping and other abuses of pharmaceuticals, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Brown said that the state’s prescription monitoring is a “horse-and-buggy” system that needs significant improvements because it now can take healthcare professionals weeks to obtain information on drug use by patients. That delay can allow some patients to get large quantities of drugs from multiple doctors for personal use or sale.

“If California puts this on real-time access, it will give doctors and pharmacies the technology they need to fight prescription drug abuse, which is burdening our healthcare system,” Brown said.

The database, known as the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System, contains 86 million entries for prescription drugs dispensed in California.

Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem, with the federal government reporting that 7 million Americans engaged in non-medical use of pharmaceuticals in 2006–up from 6 million two years earlier.

Using a secure, privately funded online database, Brown said, health professionals would be able to access drug histories of patients instead of mailing or faxing written requests for the information.

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Antibody drug found cost-effective against allergic asthma

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK A review of seven studies has found the antibody drug Xolair to be cost-effective in treating allergic asthma, according to a report published in the journal Allergy.

The report, by University of Washington researcher Sean Sullivan and Dr. F. Turk of Novartis Pharma showed that Xolair, Novartis’ brand name for omalizumab, showed the drug was cost-effective in treating allergic asthma for which common asthma medications were inadequate.

The studies also found some evidence that Xolair may not be as cost-effective in treating other forms of asthma.

Novartis and Genentech market Xolair in the U.S. Genentech reported U.S. sales of $472 million for the drug in 2007, according to Novartis financial data.

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First DataBank settles lawsuit for $1 million

BY Drew Buono

BOSTON First DataBank, a provider of integrated databases of information about medications, has agreed to pay $1 million to settle a lawsuit alleging it conspired with McKesson to manipulate the average wholesale price of drugs.

The case, New England Carpenters Health Benefits Fund vs. First DataBank, filed in 2005, alleges that First DataBank and McKesson “wrongfully increased the so-called wholesale acquisition cost to AWP markup factor applied to numerous prescription pharmaceuticals through a scheme begun in late 2001 and 2002,” which meant that the plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit made “substantial excess payments.”

First DataBank denies any wrongdoing or liability and “has valid and complete defenses to the claims asserted against [it] in the class action,” which it is settling to avoid the expense and inconvenience of further litigation, the settlement says.

The case, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, explicitly excludes government entities from joining the class action suit. The San Francisco Health Plan and the state of Connecticut have filed suits with similar charges that McKesson and First DataBank inflated the spread between WAC and AWP from 20 percent to 25 percent, costing state Medicaid and other health programs untold sums.

First DataBank is not named as a defendant in the two new lawsuits. McKesson continues to defend itself in all three cases.

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