PHARMACY

First DataBank settles lawsuit for $1 million

BY Drew Buono

BOSTON First DataBank, a provider of integrated databases of information about medications, has agreed to pay $1 million to settle a lawsuit alleging it conspired with McKesson to manipulate the average wholesale price of drugs.

The case, New England Carpenters Health Benefits Fund vs. First DataBank, filed in 2005, alleges that First DataBank and McKesson “wrongfully increased the so-called wholesale acquisition cost to AWP markup factor applied to numerous prescription pharmaceuticals through a scheme begun in late 2001 and 2002,” which meant that the plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit made “substantial excess payments.”

First DataBank denies any wrongdoing or liability and “has valid and complete defenses to the claims asserted against [it] in the class action,” which it is settling to avoid the expense and inconvenience of further litigation, the settlement says.

The case, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, explicitly excludes government entities from joining the class action suit. The San Francisco Health Plan and the state of Connecticut have filed suits with similar charges that McKesson and First DataBank inflated the spread between WAC and AWP from 20 percent to 25 percent, costing state Medicaid and other health programs untold sums.

First DataBank is not named as a defendant in the two new lawsuits. McKesson continues to defend itself in all three cases.

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FDA, EMEA partner on inspections program

BY Drew Buono

WASHINGTON The Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency have joined together to pilot a good manufacturing practice inspections program.

Under the bilateral agreement, the program will apply to facilities in both the U.S. and the European Union. Also, joint inspections of active pharmaceutical ingredient facilities in countries outside the U.S. and the EU will be part of the program.

The agencies will pilot a GMP information exchange covering inspection schedules and results. Information on facilities that have been inspected would be shared so the agencies could get greater inspection coverage and better identify API production sites in countries outside the U.S. and the EU.

“The collaboration on inspections should result in more effective use of resources and a higher safety level of product from third countries,” the European Commission, which lists new GMP initiatives the two agencies undertake, said.

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Study shows Mass. plan drops uninsurance rate, decreases expenses

BY Drew Buono

CHICAGO According to a study performed by the Urban Institute, the uninsurance rate for Massachusetts adults has dropped by more than half and residents were paying less in out-of-pocket health expenses, as reported by the Associated Press.

Researchers from the institute interviewed 3,000 Massachusetts residents in the fall of 2006, just before the law took effect, and conducted a second round of interviews a year later. The uninsurance rate among working age adults dropped from 13 to 7 percent. The biggest drop was among poorer residents.

The finding reflects the fact that nearly 350,000 residents have been added to the ranks of the insured in Massachusetts under the law, which created a subsidized health care program for those earning less than three times the federal poverty level.

The share of adults reporting out-of-pocket expenses of more than $500 dropped by four percent. The percent of low-income adults reporting out-of-pocket expenses of more than $3,000 fell eight percent.

In another positive finding, low-income adults were more likely to have a place to go when they were sick and were more likely to visit a doctor for preventative care.

One fear—that employers would begin dropping health coverage as the new law took effect—hasn’t materialized, according to the report.

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