PHARMACY

CPhA: New medical marijuana guidelines leave pharmacists behind

BY David Salazar
OTTAWA, Canada — The Canadian government on Thursday announced its new Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations, which will take effect on Aug. 24, and according to the Canadian Pharmacists Association, one big change that has popular support was left out. 
 
The CPhA on Thursday noted its disappointment that the new guidelines do not include a model in which pharmacists oversee dispensing of medical marijuana, though Health Canada did say it was considering a potential model with pharmacy at the center. 
 
“Pharmacists have the expertise to mitigate potential risks associated with medical marijuana, including harmful drug interactions, contraindications, and potential addictive behavior,” CPhA CEO Perry Eisenschmid said. “Pharmacist management and distribution would improve access for Canadians in urban, rural and remote communities … under the supervision of a licensed health care professional, through an established distribution system proven to protect patient and public safety.”
 
An Abacus Data poll conducted in February found that 52% of respondents were in favor of a distribution method led by pharmacy. And CPhA acknowledged that there is hope in the future as Canada looks to push for legal access to recreational marijuana, noting that pharmacist-dispensed medical marijuana in a country that also permits recreational marijuana would prevent against abuse of the medical system and the emergence of a grey market. 
 
"By providing access to marijuana for medical purposes through pharmacy, Health Canada and the Task Force on Marijuana Legalization and Regulation can ensure that Canada is in line with international best practices," Eisenschmid said. "Recognizing that Health Canada is responding directly to the Court's ruling and its deadline, we are encouraged that Health Canada has committed to studying pharmacy distribution as the regulations are evaluated going forward."
 
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Guest blog: More members of Congress pressure Medicare on DIR fees

BY Michael Rule

In June, due to NCPA advocacy efforts and widespread grassroots activity from independent pharmacists, 30 members of the House of Representatives wrote to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) urging the agency to finalize its guidance on DIR fees. NCPA members and staff continued advocacy efforts, and as a result, three more members of Congress have contacted CMS to voice support for their DIR proposal.

Congressman Ralph Abraham (R-La.) highlighted the lag time in assessing fees and the importance of CMS finalizing its guidance, writing in part, "Through discussions with multiple independent pharmacies in Louisiana's Fifth Congressional District, I learned of situations in which pharmacies have been waiting for as long as five months to find out the dollar amount in DIR fees that PBMs are taking from them. This is no way for an industry to run. CMS finalizing guidance on their DIR rules would be a positive step toward consistent and fair reporting."

In a separate letter, Congressmen William Keating (D-Mass.) and Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) reiterated the support of their colleagues for CMS' proposal, noting "As Congressmen Scott, Loebsack, Welch, and Carter noted in their letter to you dated June 14, 2016, and as many other Members of Congress concurred, your agency's proposed guidance should be successful because: (1) it prevents PBMs and plan sponsors from manipulating drug prices by withholding market information; and (2) it ensures that Medicare beneficiaries have access to the most accurate data available as they assess the costs of their prescriptions."

These letters are further evidence of growing momentum in Congress for addressing DIR fees, however, it's vital to continue to communicate with elected officials on the impact DIRs have on local small business pharmacies. A recent post on NCPA's The Dose entitled "Turn Up the Heat on Congress this Summer" highlighted a toolkit of resources available to independent pharmacists to help make their voice heard, and the NCPA Legislative Action Center can be utilized to send messages to your legislators urging action on DIRs. Continuing to engage legislators with a coordinated and unified voice and raising awareness of the local impact of DIRs will help sustain the momentum.


Michael Rule is the National Community Pharmacy Association’s associate director of public affairs and grassroots. 

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Benzer Pharmacy joins American Pharmacy Purchasing Alliance

BY David Salazar
TAMPA, Fla. — Benzer Pharmacy announced Friday that it had joined the American Pharmacy Purchasing Alliance (APPA), a community of pharmaceutical experts and professionals working to advance the pharmaceutical purchasing industry. Now all of the more than 60 Benzer Pharmacy locations are members of the alliance. 
 
“We are excited to announce that all Benzer Pharmacies will be joining this alliance that offers industry-trusted education and information and acts as a trusted voice for the national pharmaceutical purchasing industry,” Benzer Pharmacy president Alpesh Patel said. 
 
APPA works to develop networking strategies and opportunities while developing new technologies and strategies to improve productivity. 
 
“Our goal is to keep members abreast of the latest developments and news in the pharmaceutical industry as well as offering educational opportunities for professional growth and empowerment.” APPA president Joshua Pirestani said. “APPA focuses on gathering different entities and sources of information that will become beneficial to the industry as well as to the parties concerned.”
 
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