PHARMACY

Democrats vow to re-examine Medicare provisions, Baucus says

BY Allison Cerra

WASHINGTON Cuts in Medicare payments to private health insurers won’t be included in a children’s health bill, leaving the program at a standstill, a Wall Street Journal article reports.

Unless Congress and the White House agree to the funding of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which expires at the end of September, approximately five million children will be left uninsured. To mitigate this, Montana Sen. Max Baucus, the chairman of the Senate committee that oversees Medicare, has debated with the idea of cutting payments to Medicare Advantage insurers and increasing taxation on tobacco products to balance the lack of funding.

Baucus also said that the Medicare committee wishes to improve other aspects of the program, including improvements in having health insurers pay retail pharmacies immediately following the dispensing of medications.

Senate Democrats, led by Baucus, have passed a bill by a margin of 68 to 31 to increase funding by $35 billion. The House Democrats’ bill, sponsored by Michigan’s John Dingell, passed 225 to 204 and increases that amount to $50 billion.

President Bush, on the other hand, wishes to increase the budget of the children’s health bill by a comparatively small $5 billion over five years, and treat the federal-state health insurance policy the same way the government treats food and housing—which is, making it available to low-income families only.

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PHARMACY

CIGNA debuts online Rx pricing guide for patients

BY Jim Frederick

BLOOMFIELD, Conn. Big insurance and pharmacy benefits management company CIGNA HealthCare has launched an updated version of its online Prescription Drug Price Quote tool for its health and PBM plan members as a price-comparison guide.

The web-based guide is available on the My Plans—Pharmacy page at www.mycigna.com. It offers Cigna Pharmacy members real-time, plan-specific cost comparisons for generic, brand name and available therapeutic alternative medications at 57,000 U.S. pharmacies, according to the health plan giant.

“Rather than relying on national average or regional discount information on retail pharmacy prices, the tool displays side-by-side comparisons of exactly what members would pay for brand named medications, available generics and low cost therapeutic options…based on their benefit plan, as well as the total cost of each medication,” Cigna noted in a statement.

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Rexahn receives patent for Zoraxel

BY Drew Buono

ROCKVILLE, Md. Rexahn Pharmaceuticals has received a U.S. Patent for the treatment of sexual dysfunction with its leading drug candidate RX-10100 IR, also known as Zoraxel.

Zoraxel is a drug that enhances neurotransmitters in the brain, both of which play key roles in sexual motivation, erection, and release. This would be the first drug to effect all three phases of sexual activity.

Commenting on today’s news, Chang H. Ahn, Ph.D., Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Rexahn Pharmaceuticals, noted, “This latest patent coverage for Zoraxel significantly strengthens our patent estate. When added to the four CNS-related U.S. patents and two anti-cancer patents already secured, this represents another key milestone for the Company as we move forward with the clinical development for this promising new drug.”

The company plans to initiate a Phase II trial for Zoraxel by the end of this year.

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