PHARMACY

Forteo performs admirably in study vs. Fosamax

BY Allison Cerra

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.

The osteoporosis drug Forteo may be trumping its category competition.

In a study developed by the University of Alabama at Birmingham, researchers concluded that Forteo prevented fractures in arthritis patients with weakened bones more so than osteoporosis bestseller Fosamax, according to reports.

The study, which split the 400 subjects into groups of two, gave one group of injections of Forteo daily and another group of 200 pills containing Fosamax daily.

After 18 months, the differences between the two groups were dramatic. Patients taking Forteo, the report said, had significantly fewer spinal fractures about 0.6 percent of the Forteo group compared with 6.1 percent of the Fosamax group.

Researchers, the Birmingham News said, also measured the spines and hips of the subjects, and found that the Forteo patients had about twice the bone density, higher levels of protein and biological makers for bone formation compared to the Fosamax patients.

The study, which was published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, may change the way doctors treat bone loss, but it also raises concerns that Forteo may carry more risks than Fosamax.

Side effects that occurred in patients that used Forteo ranged from headache to dizziness. However, the study noted, one patient died the day after being withdrawn from the study because of “an adverse event.”

An editorial, which was published along with the study, had stated that the adverse events could have contributed to the 30 percent of patients who stopped taking Forteo. The report noted that many patients needing a drug like Forteo are already very ill and may not be able to tolerate the drug’s side effects.

Forteo is now approved for use in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis, and for men with some types of osteoporosis.

Fosamax’s maker, Merck, reports that revenue from that drug is about $3 billion annually. Fosamax was launched in 1995. Forteo has been on the market since 2002 and earns about $1.2 billion per year in revenue, according to its maker Eli Lilly.

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PHARMACY

Walgreens offers customers free help with Medicare plans

BY Drew Buono

DEERFIELD, Ill. Today marks the beginning of the open enrollment for Medicare Part D plans. It will last from now until Dec. 31 and will allow seniors to pick which plan will be best for him/her.

Walgreens is helping its customers out yet again this year, by offering free information about the plans. The information is given out by, pharmacists enter a list of a patient’s medications and the computer prints out information that gives a detailed list of plans and estimated annual costs including premiums and co-pays, coverage through the “doughnut hole”, savings with generics versus brand name drugs and 90-day supply allowances. This system also allows pharmacists to ask a few questions to determine whether someone may qualify for the Extra Help subsidy, where they pay lower co-payments.

“We understand this decision can be overwhelming, so we are working to make sure people don’t miss out on significant savings because they don’t know how to evaluate their options,” said Kermit Crawford, Walgreens senior vice president of pharmacy services. “We want seniors to know there’s a plan out there that will work for them, and we can help them find it.”

For more information on the personalized report and Medicare Part D counseling services available at Walgreens, contact your local store or go to Walgreens.com.

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NACDS reaches out to presidential hopefuls, elevating industry’s profile with new campaign

BY Jim Frederick

ALEXANDRIA, Va. The National Association of Chain Drug Stores is launching a new outreach and educational effort to Democratic and Republican presidential candidates in an effort to enlist their involvement in and support of community pharmacy.

The first salvo in that new campaign is an open letter to all the presidential hopefuls, published as a full-page ad in today’s edition of The Washington Post. The letter, on NACDS letterhead, is a kickoff to a broad effort to emphasize the value of retail pharmacy to patients and the health care system. It seeks a partnership between the organization and presidential aspirants in their search for solutions to the nation’s increasingly expensive and challenging health care puzzle.

In its open letter, NACDS points out that “there is a community pharmacy, on average, within 2.36 miles of any resident in the United States,” and that “pharmacists are exceptionally accessible and convenient health care providers.

NACDS urges the candidates to “come to a point when government action reflects the health-boosting and money-saving value of medication management, and stops devaluing the services of those who are best equipped to provide it.

“Given the primacy of the issue of health care, campaigning for nomination and election requires a campaign for quality, affordability and accessibility of care,” the group adds. “Let’s work together to unleash the power of community pharmacy in a pro-patient platform.”

NACDS president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson announced the outreach effort today at a health care forum at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “We reached out to the presidential candidates today because health care is clearly the major domestic policy issue on the national stage,” he told Chamber members. “With state and federal governments making nearly half of all healthcare payments in the U.S., we want to be part of the health care vision of the future for public payers. But our scope is much larger than that: we want to engage public and private payers and all strategic healthcare stakeholders.”

In addition, said NACDS’ chief executive, “We also reached out to the presidential candidates because we believe that government needs to think anew about the health-boosting and money-saving value of the role of the community pharmacist in medication management. At the same time, government needs to stop devaluing their services.”

In line with the kickoff of the new outreach campaign, Anderson also unveiled a new report from Comstock Consulting Group, LLC, which outlines the value of pharmacist-delivered patient-care services to health plan payers and other stakeholders. The report, based on a survey of health plan payers, was conducted for NACDS’ Value of Pharmacy Committee with support from drug maker Sanofi-Aventis.

“The objective,” he said, “was to identify insights on how we can develop pharmacist-delivered services that are recognized and valued, and ultimately improve the quality of patient care.”

The report cites the need for collaboration between pharmacists, physicians and other health care stakeholders to improve patients’ prevention and treatment of chronic diseases, and notes that “community pharmacy needs to define its future role as a service provider as well as a product provider.”

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