PHARMACY

CVS Health study marks anniversary of ending tobacco sales

BY Lesley Thulin

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — A year after deciding to end tobacco sales, CVS Health on Thursday released new data from a CVS Health Research Institute study that shows a reduction in cigarette purchases over the past year.

The study tracked cigarette pack purchases at drug, food, big box, dollar, convenience and gas station retailers in the eight months after CVS/pharmacy stopped selling tobacco products, according to the company, and found a 1% reduction in cigarette pack sales in states where CVS/pharmacy had a 15% or greater share of the retail pharmacy market. Over the same eight-month period, the average smoker in these states purchased five fewer cigarette packs, and approximately 95 million fewer packs were sold.

“One year ago, we stopped selling tobacco products because it conflicted with our purpose of helping people on their path to better health,” Dr. Troyen Brennan, chief medical officer at CVS Health, said. “Today, we are excited to release new data demonstrating the positive impact our decision has had on public health overall as shown by a measurable decrease in the number of cigarette purchases across all retailers.”

The study also revealed a 4% increase in nicotine patch purchases in the states with a CVS/pharmacy market share of 15% of more.

Since CVS removed tobacco products from shelves, the average number of MinuteClinic “Start to Stop” smoking cessation visits per month nearly doubled, according to the company. CVS pharmacists counseled more than 260,000 patients about smoking cessation and filled nearly 600,000 nicotine replacement therapy prescriptions. The company also distributed millions of smoking cessation informational brochures and hundreds of thousands of “Last Pack” toolkits, and educated more than 1 million people via its Online Cessation Hub on CVS.com.

“We know that more than two-thirds of smokers want to quit — and that half of smokers try to quit each year,” Brennan said. “We also know that cigarette purchases are often spontaneous. And so we reasoned that removing a convenient location to buy cigarettes could decrease overall tobacco use. This new data demonstrates that CVS Health’s decision to stop selling tobacco did indeed have a real public health impact.”

CVS Health has also pledged more than $1 million in corporate grants to tobacco cessation and prevention programs such as Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Stand Up To Cancer and American Lung Association’s LungForce, and announced it will launch a school-based tobacco-prevention program with its foundation and Scholastic.

“Today, we are proud to mark our one-year anniversary by building on our commitment to be a meaningful part of the effort to make the next generation tobacco-free,” said Eileen Howard Boone, SVP of Corporate Social Responsibility and Philanthropy at CVS Health and president of the CVS Health Foundation. By partnering with an expert partner in education to launch this new program, we will reach millions of kids across the country with critical tobacco-prevention education.”

The program targets nearly three million children in grades three, four and five, with a second component offered in some pilot markets for students in grades six and seven for early 2016. The middle school component will also include a student engagement program, with the chance to receive incentives such as scholarships and youth-focused community training.

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McKesson public policy forum encourages pharmacists to get involved

BY Michael Johnsen

SAN DIEGO — California state Sen. Jeff Stone, a former independent pharmacist himself, had one message for independent pharmacists during the McKesson ideaShare 2015 Public Policy session in San Diego — don’t just vote, get involved.

(To view the full Chain Pharmacy Category Review, click here.)

“We need more pharmacist leaders,” he said. “As the most respected profession in the country, you have a leg up, and I’m going to encourage you, today, to get involved in your local politics,” Stone said. “Pharmacy is the most respected profession in the country. You have no idea the powerful message that this sends when you’re running for office. It gives you immediate credibility. We need to have ambassadors at all levels of government so that we can enhance and advance our profession.”

Having a voice in those legislative halls is becoming more and more important as government becomes a bigger payer of healthcare services, noted Joe Ganley, McKesson VP government affairs. “The reality is that for all of our businesses, government politics touches us, so we have to be involved,” Ganley said. “If we can elevate our public policy advocacy beyond our narrow business interests, and frame it in a system-wide ‘what’s good for the healthcare system, what’s good for patients kind of way,’ we’ll all benefit tremendously. Pharmacists are some of the most well-trained and under-utilized providers in the healthcare system, and we should be putting them to work on the front lines helping patients to get and stay healthy.”

Some of the key political battles facing independent operators today included provider status, vaccination requirements and creating a fair marketplace when it comes to pharmacy benefit managers.

Health Mart owners Alex Obeid and Jeff Sherr joined Ganley and Stone on stage for a roundtable discussion on how best to champion the role pharmacy plays in healthcare delivery in the halls of legislators.

As the healthcare paradigm evolves from a volume-based system to a value-based system, that role is significant. “We really have an opportunity here to expose to the world what it is that we bring to the table,” Obeid said. “This is a healthcare dynamic that’s not going to go away. We’re going to be excluded if we don’t speak out.”

“The business of pharmacy is a changing paradigm,” Sherr said. “As pharmacists we have a choice. We can either make dust or we can eat dust. Through this whole McKesson ideaShare 2015, the whole discussion has been about patient outcomes and talking about med sync and adherence. So much of that is the way that we can prove to people the value that pharmacists and pharmacy actually have.”

The Forum speakers encouraged ideaShare participants to get involved by getting to know their elected representatives, engaging in their pharmacy associations and learning about the key public policy issues that face community pharmacy practice today.  

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Sandoz launches first U.S. biosimilar Zarxio

BY David Salazar

HOLZKIRCHEN, Germany — Sandoz on Thursday announced that it had launched its Zarxio (filgrastim-sndz) injection, a biosimilar of Amgen’s Neupogen (filgrastim). The drug is the first biosimilar drug to launch in the U.S. Zarxio, intended to reduce risk of infection in patients with a low count of white blood cells, is available in boxes of 0.5- and 0.8-ml single-use injections. 

“As the pioneer and global leader in biosimilars, Sandoz has maintained a commitment to bringing high-quality biosimilar medicines to patients and healthcare professionals around the world,” Sandoz’s global head Richard Francis said. “With the launch of Zarxio, we look forward to increasing patient, prescriber and payer access to filgrastim in the US by offering a high-quality, more affordable version of this important oncology medicine.”

Alongside Zarxio, Sandoz is launching is OneSource patient services center that will offer resources and information for patients. 

Though it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration on March 6, Sandoz fought an injunction by Amgen that prevented it from being sold. A July ruling resolved the case, saying that a company whose biosimilar has been approved by the FDA must give the original drug maker 180 days’ notice of commercial marketing before launch.

Thursday's launch was praised by the Generic Pharmaceutical Association’s Biosmilars Council. 

“The Biosimilars Council … is very pleased that a federal appeals court has cleared the way for patients to access the first FDA-approved biosimilar,” the organization said. “The launch of Zarxio is a victory for all champions of improving access and affordability in healthcare.”

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