PHARMACY

Census data adds to congressional debate on SCHIP reauthorization

BY Adam Kraemer

WASHINGTON The response to the U.S. Census Bureau report released earlier this week that 47 million Americans went without health insurance in 2006 has been quick and vocal.

The census data also found that 11.7 percent of U.S. children under 18 lacked health insurance, compared with 10.9 percent in 2005. In a statement released Tuesday, the executive director of the American Public Health Association, Georges Benjamin, observed, “This is a travesty.”

“Tragically, our children share the burden. 8.7 million children—or more than one in 10—were uninsured in 2006, up from 8 million,” he continued. “Access to health care is critical, especially for children. Children who are uninsured are more than three times less likely to have seen a doctor in the last year and have a higher incidence of preventable disease than insured children.”

The data served to add more voices to an already contentious debate in Washington regarding Congress’ reauthorization of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, designed with the goal of expanding health insurance to children whose families earn too much money to be eligible for Medicaid, but not enough money to purchase private insurance.

“Today’s news serves as even more evidence that programs like SCHIP must be fully funded and extended to the growing numbers of uninsured Americans,” said Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts. “Healthcare costs are soaring, and our healthcare professionals are feeling incredible burdens.”

The White House, in an effort to rein in spending on the SCHIP, has argued that the federal government should not be spending money on insurance for the middle class.

“Almost 15 years ago, there were 37 million people uninsured,” Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, said in a statement Tuesday. “It was an outrage then and with 10 million more people uninsured today, it is an even deeper outrage today. Yet, the uninsured have been invisible to this president.”

The president has threatened, should the bill contain significantly higher funding than in the past, to veto the SCHIP, which expires on Sept. 30.

“Given these grim statistics, all eyes are now on Congress,” Benjamin stated. “There is no better opportunity for us to turn these numbers around and ensure that kids get the health care, including access to preventive care, they need than reauthorizing and expanding the SCHIP. The program expires in a month. Congress must act and forward the strongest possible SCHIP bill to the president for his signature.”

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BlueCross/BlueShield of Oregon introduces new generics program

BY Drew Buono

PORTLAND, Ore. Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon has introduced a new program called Generics First Antidepressant Program, to help battle rising healthcare costs.

The program encourages the use of high-quality antidepressant generic medications. Since the company believes generics can meet the needs of most patients, brand-name drugs will require a prior authorization beginning in September. This though, does not necessarily mean that people already on brand-name medications will need a prior authorization.

Prices could result as follows, a 30-day supply of a generic could be $30 compared to a brand-name drug, which could cost $83. “These generics are a good value for members and are available without prior authorization,” said David Clark, vice president of Medical Services and Pharmacy for Regence.

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AmerisourceBergen opens Orlando DC after deal with FDA

BY Adam Kraemer

VALLEY FORGE, Pa. AmerisourceBergen Corp. announced that on August 25, 2007 the Drug Enforcement Administration reinstated AmerisourceBergen’s license for its Orlando Distribution Center to distribute controlled substances. The distribution center immediately resumed shipment of controlled substances to its customers.

The license was suspended in April 2007 because the DEA alleged that the distribution center had not maintained effective controls against diversion of controlled substances by retail Internet pharmacies. During the suspension, the company was able to provide the products to its customers from another distribution center.

Due to the suspension, AmerisourceBergen implemented an enhanced and more sophisticated order-monitoring program in all of its distribution centers starting July 1, 2007, The company has since passed several DEA inspections of the new program. AmerisourceBergen said that it expects the new order monitoring program to quickly become the industry standard, as it requires more rapid identification and daily reporting of orders that may indicate diversion of controlled substances, and, in some instances, may even require halting a shipment of orders to further investigate. The monitoring program also requires a more rigorous examination process before the delivery of controlled substances to newly signed customers.

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