PHARMACY

CVS offers assistance to help seniors with Medicare Part D

BY Antoinette Alexander

WOONSOCKET, R.I. CVS is aiming to help seniors navigate Medicare Part D plan changes with such resources as an online assistance tool.

The CVS Medicare Part D Plan Decision Tool, available at www.cvs.com, guides seniors through the decision-making process. After entering basic information, including current prescription drug coverage, prescription medications and their location via a pull-down menu, seniors are guided through a series of options:

  • Plans with the lowest cost despite medication limitations or fewest medication limitations even if it means higher cost
  • Plans with the lowest annual cost based on current prescriptions or plans with gap coverage that may be more expensive
  • Qualification for Extra Help from the Social Security Administration.

Seniors are also presented with a list of the top plans that best meet their needs, including information on estimated annual cost, monthly premium, deductible, limitations on medications and gap coverage. The plans can be compared by each criterion.

And, as noted by the company, CVS pharmacists have been trained on Medicare Part D plan changes, and are available to provide counsel to seniors in the pharmacy.

On average, there will be 53 Medicare Part D plans offered in each state during 2008. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced a 3.1 percent average increase in monthly premiums for Medicare Part D plans.

Those who are currently enrolled in a Medicare Part D plan are encouraged to review their current plan for changes in potential out of pocket costs, like the deductible and coverage of current or anticipated prescription drugs. In recently released data, CMS predicts that 91 percent of current Medicare beneficiaries will have access to lower cost Medicare Part D plans in 2008, as compared with 83 percent of Medicare beneficiaries in 2007.

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Cephalon submits application to FDA for supplemental uses of Fentora

BY Drew Buono

FRAZER, Pa. Cephalon has submitted a supplemental application to the Food and Drug Administration to market its cancer drug Fentora as a “breakthrough pain” drug that would treat chronic pain conditions that could include lower back and neuropathic pain, according to the Philadelphia Business Journal.

Breakthrough pain is characterized as pain that is rapid on its onset and moderate-to-severe in intensity and relatively short in duration. If the application is approved, Fentora would also be indicated for breakthrough pain in chronic pain conditions experienced by opiod-tolerant patients.

In September, the FDA and Cephalon issued warnings to patients and doctors alerting them of the potential fatal risk factors associated with improper use of Fentora in such cases as patients using them to treat migraines or other types of short-term pain. Cephalon is also working with the FDA to update the package insert of the drug to include revised patient selection criteria and dosing instructions.

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Reverse-payment bill held up in Congress by pharmaceutical lobbying

BY Drew Buono

WASHINGTON Legislation aimed at speeding up the availability of cheaper generic drugs has stalled in Congress due to major lobbying by the drug industry, according to the Associated Press.

The Senate bill would ban most reverse payments, which occur when a brand-name company pays a generic manufacturer to delay the introduction of a drug.

An Associated Press review of lobbying reports, from July 1, 2006, through June 30, 2007, found that $38.8 million was spent by at least a dozen generic and brand-name companies and their trade associations on issues including the Senate legislation.

More than half of those expenses were piled up by the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America, which represents brand-name drug companies. PhRMA spent $19.5 million in the 12-month period ended June 30 on in-house lobbying expenses, an increase of about $3 million over the previous 12-month period.

And the Generic Pharmaceutical Association reported lobbying expenses of around $420,000 for the first six months of this year. The remaining $19 million was spent by a variety of drug companies, including Bayer, Schering-Plough, Pfizer and Teva Pharmaceuticals.

“Lobbyists have a lot of influence in Washington,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., who chairs the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust, competition policy and consumer rights. “If we can just get this to a vote, it will be pretty hard for people to vote against it. A vote against this is a vote against consumers.”

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