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CVS Caremark, Blue Cross of N.J. hit milestone in e-prescribing adoption

BY Antoinette Alexander

WOONSOCKET, R.I. —Crossing a significant threshold in the ongoing campaign by healthcare providers to convert the nation’s physicians to paperless prescribing, CVS Caremark and Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey announced this month that together, the two firms had processed 5.5 million electronic prescriptions since 2004.

That makes the conversion effort by the two companies one of the largest single-payer e-prescribing initiatives in the country. It also bolsters CVS’ credibility among health plan payers, particularly its claim that the chain—and its Caremark pharmacy benefit management division—are able to provide cost-effective healthcare solutions for health plan payers through the application of advanced technology.

The move to paperless prescribing among physicians taking part in the CVS/Blue Cross initiative in New Jersey also appears to be accelerating. In 2008, doctors serving the benefit program wrote nearly 2 million prescriptions, a 20% increase compared with 2007.

“Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey is a leader in the e-prescribing movement,” asserted Troyen Brennan, CVS Caremark’s chief medical officer and EVP. “We see the N.J. provider community as an industry bellwether in using technology to improve safety and compliance for its patients.”

More than 1,000 prescribers in New Jersey are using CVS Caremark’s proprietary iScribe e-prescribing system. Another 2,500 are accessing e-prescribing services through another stand-alone handheld or Web-based e-prescribing tool or as a component of their electronic medical record through a hospital or medical system.

“The highest prescribers in our network are using iScribe for 75% to 80% of their prescriptions. Across the spectrum of prescribers that we support, we are driving to industry-leading usage levels. That translates to significant savings and safety benefits for Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey patients,” said Richard Popiel, chief medical officer and VP of Horizon BCBSNJ.

Addressing the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society annual summit earlier this month, CVS Caremark EVP Helena Foulkes discussed how the company implements technology to enhance healthcare outcomes. The combination of health technology and customized, face-to-face interaction between pharmacists and patients, she said, can significantly improve medication compliance and engage consumers in their own health care.

“In today’s wired world, consumers are exposed to a lot of information about their healthcare options from a variety of sources and in a number of different formats,” Foulkes stated. “Given the complexities of the healthcare system in general, this fragmented approach can leave consumers confused and unsure about what they need to do to stay healthy.

“CVS Caremark’s Proactive Pharmacy Care approach leverages a number of different technology tools to engage and educate our patients and their healthcare providers about their pharmacy healthcare needs earlier in the process,” Foulkes explained.

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Kroger to serve as exclusive supermarket sponsor of Fiesta Atlanta ’09

BY Allison Cerra

ATLANTA Kroger will serve as the exclusive supermarket sponsor of Fiesta Atlanta ’09, an outdoor Cinco de Mayo festival celebrating Latino culture, music and food.

Fiesta Atlanta ’09 takes place on Sunday, May 3 at Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta. For Kroger, the partnership represents the company’s commitment to the Hispanic community.

“We are very excited and looking forward to Fiesta Atlanta,” said Glynn Jenkins, director of communications and public relations for Kroger’s Atlanta Division. “Kroger has always made exceptional efforts to serve the Hispanic community and joining this celebration is another commitment to our Hispanic customers.”

Atlanta’s largest Hispanic outdoor family festival, Fiesta Atlanta attracted over 40,000 attendees last year. This year’s event will once again feature authentic food from many Latin-American countries, arts and crafts, sponsor displays with many free product samples and continuous live musical performances by national and local recording artists.

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AARP cites big jump in Rx prices

BY DSN STAFF

NEW YORK A report by AARP indicated that prices for branded drugs have increased at a rate outpacing the rate of inflation by more than six percentage points.

 

The report found that manufacturers’ prices for branded drugs increased by 9% last year, compared with the general inflation rate of 3.8%. Meanwhile, prices of generic drugs decreased, on average, by 10.6%.

 

 

Generic drugs have already grown significantly over the years, accounting for 69% of all prescriptions dispensed in the United States, but 16% of money spent on prescriptions, according to IMS Health. In 2007, according to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the average price of a generic prescription drug was $34.34, compared to $119.51 for a branded drug.

 

 

Price increases for branded drugs significantly higher than the overall rate of inflation, mixed with the recession, are likely to drive more consumers to generics. According to AARP, nearly a quarter of all older Americans skip medication doses because of the cost, while other studies have shown that many Americans facing economic hardship don’t have prescriptions filled at all.

 

 

At the same time, many branded pharmaceutical drugs – not to mention biologics – don’t yet have a generic version. This could create difficulties for elderly and other patients who may be able switch to medications that are cheaper, but different from what they take, or who take biologic drugs or newer drugs that have no equivalent on the market.

 

 

The Generic Pharmaceutical Association said the report indicated that generic medicines are “the right choice for better health.”

 

 

“During these difficult economic times, it is truly disturbing to hear reports that our nation’s seniors cannot afford their prescription drug costs,” GPhA president and CEO Kathleen Jaeger said in a statement responding to the report. “No one should be forced to choose between putting food on their table and paying for needed medicines.”

 

 

Jaeger also said the report illustrated the need for a regulatory pathway for biosimilars.

 

 

“It’s time to do right by our seniors and all Americans struggling with healthcare costs by approving legislation that brings safe, effective and affordable biogeneric medicines to patients sooner rather than later,” Jaeger said. “GPhA also strongly believes that increasing funding for FDA would ensure the more timely approval of generic medicines, increasing the opportunity for consumers to save immediately.”

 

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