PHARMACY

Chain, independent pharmacy lobby backs MTM rider in health-reform bill

BY Jim Frederick

ALEXANDRIA, Va. Chain and independent pharmacy groups are endorsing a new amendment to the Senate’s massive health-reform bill that would boost support for pharmacy-centered medication therapy management programs.

The amendment, sponsored by U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., would fund improvements and a standardized billing platform for MTM provided to seniors covered by the Medicare Part D drug benefit program. The inclusion of Hagan’s language to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act would enable pharmacists “to help more patients take the right medications in the right ways,” noted the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Wednesday.

“Helping patients to understand the importance of taking their medication properly – medication adherence – is a critical way that pharmacists are playing a role in curbing increasing healthcare costs and improving health outcomes for patients,” said NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson. “We thank Sen. Hagan for her advocacy on behalf of patients and pharmacy – the face of neighborhood healthcare – and we look forward to continuing to work with Congress to help ensure that MTM provisions remain in the final healthcare bill.”

Also endorsing Hagan’s amendment is the National Community Pharmacists Association and its leader, NCPA EVP and CEO Bruce Roberts. MTM programs, the group noted, “have been shown to improve outcomes while lowering healthcare costs.”

Both groups – and their chain and independent pharmacy members – have mounted a sustained lobbying and education campaign to remind lawmakers of the critical and often overlooked role pharmacists can play in delivering more patient-centered and cost-effective health care. If remarks made by Hagan on the Senate floor are any indication, that message appears to be getting through.

“As much as one half of all patients in our country do not follow the doctor’s orders regarding their medications,” Hagan said. Pharmacists, she added, “follow up and educate the patient about his or her medication regimen.”

Two other amendments to the health-reform package also won strong praise from the independent pharmacy group. “NCPA strongly supports an amendment by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, that allows pharmacies to continue providing Durable Medical Equipment, Prosthetics, Orthotics, and Supplies [DMEPOS] and Part B drugs to Medicare beneficiaries without purchasing a surety bond,” Roberts noted. “Like the 14 other types of medical professionals that Medicare exempted from the surety bond requirement, pharmacists are licensed and regulated by the states. Requiring surety bonds is duplicative and may lead to loss of patient access to valuable health care services, such as diabetes testing supplies, canes and crutches.

 “We continue to work with Congress on both a permanent pharmacy exemption from DMEPOS accreditation requirements, as well as an extension of the current moratorium, which is scheduled to expire on Dec. 31, 2009,” added NCPA.

The group also endorsed a rider from Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., that would require the Government Accountability Office to conduct the first detailed study in more than 10 years of pharmacists’ cost of dispensing in the Medicaid program. “Private studies have shown community pharmacists to be compensated well below their cost of dispensing,” said Roberts, “and a GAO study could give Congress and the states needed information for measuring the adequacy of the dispensing fees they pay and the impact upon patient access to pharmacy services.”

In general, he added, “NCPA is grateful for Congress’ bipartisan support of community pharmacy in health care reform and we will continue to work with lawmakers as the legislative process continues.”

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PHARMACY

Mylan settles with Wyeth over antidepressant

BY Alaric DeArment

PITTSBURGH Mylan has received a license to manufacture its generic version of a drug used to treat major depressive disorder, the generic drug maker announced Tuesday.

Mylan said it received a non-exclusive license for venlafaxine hydrochloride extended-release capsules in the 37.5-mg, 75-mg and 150-mg strengths as part of a settlement with Wyeth, recently acquired by Pfizer.

The drug is a generic version of Wyeth’s Effexor XR, which had sales of about $2.9 billion during the 12-month period ended Sept. 30, according to IMS Health. Under the agreement, Mylan will be allowed to launch the drug on June 1, 2011.

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Retail lobbyists fret over public option

BY Jim Frederick

ARLINGTON, Va. Retail business leaders are fretting over provisions in the health-reform package now being hotly debated in the Senate, fearing the measure could raise their operating costs and drive many beneficiaries from the plans they know and like.

In a letter sent Tuesday to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., the Retail Industry Leaders Association voiced alarm that healthcare-reform legislation could exacerbate many of the economic and health coverage problems Congress and the White House are trying to confront. The group asked Reid to consider changing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to ease its impact on employers and their health plan members.

Among RILA’s chief concerns: that the bill, if passed as written, “would shift costs on to employers to pay for a public plan, reduce benefit design flexibility and innovation, [and] force employers to enroll new employees within 30 days of hire.” The Senate measure, added the group’s SVP government affairs, John Emling, “could undermine economic recovery, cost more jobs for the retail industry and drive employees from the health care plans they currently know and like.”

The retail industry lobby is particularly leery of the bill’s provision to establish a public health plan option. Reid and other Democrats – along with the Obama Administration – are advancing the public option as a way to compete with private insurers in order to hold down health insurance premiums and other out-of-pocket costs, and to give consumers another choice in the insurance market. But RILA asserts the plan is anathema to employers.

“No federal or state public health plan can operate as a fair competitor with the private market because of the government’s distinct advantage as both regulator and provider of care,” Emling, told Reid. “Further, the medical provider payment rates prescribed in this legislation are lower than market value and, much like we have seen with Medicare and Medicaid will force providers to increase rates on private market plans.

“These two forces combined could ultimately eradicate the employer-based system of health benefits that has proven to reduce systemic costs and ensure quality, affordable care for millions of Americans,” Emling warned.

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