Independent pharmacy lobby weighs in as feds mull ‘grandfather’ status for plans
ALEXANDRIA, Va. Federal agencies enforcing new health-reform mandates must act to preserve patients’ access to the pharmacy of their choice and lower-cost generic medicines, the independent pharmacy lobby urged the government Tuesday.
In a written appeal to three federal agencies, the National Community Pharmacists Association asserted that health plans seeking Grandfathered Health Plan status under the landmark health-reform law enacted earlier this year must maintain patient freedom of choice and ease of access to generics in a reformed healthcare network. Otherwise, urged NCPA acting EVP and CEO Doug Hoey, those plans should lose their special status.
The NCPA sent a letter Tuesday to three agencies that currently are developing criteria for maintaining GHP status following implementation of the massive Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The appeal went to the Internal Revenue Service, Employee Benefit Security Administration and Department of Health and Human Services Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight.
The NCPA’s goal, in its own words: to advance “patient choice and greater utilization of generic prescription drugs” as health plans jostle for a central role in a reformed healthcare system. “Providing quality patient care is vital to healthcare reform, and health plans that want to maintain grandfathered health plan status should not be allowed to alter their structure and benefits in ways that undermine those objectives,” Hoey said.
“For example, the face-to-face interaction patients get in their local pharmacies has a proven, positive track record in terms of health outcomes. Changes by health plans that steer patients against their will toward mail-order pharmacies represent more than just ‘reasonable routine changes’ to an existing health plan and should cause them to lose grandfathered health plan status,” Hoey asserted in his letter today. “Similarly, health plans should not be able to maintain grandfathered status when they change their prescription drug formulary designs by creating or expanding a list of ‘specialty medications’ in order to shift patients to a specific mail-order pharmacy.”
Such changes, Hoey added, would limit access to those drugs by plan beneficiaries, since many specialty drugs aren’t available to independent drug stores. “These are more than ‘reasonable routine changes’ and should also cause them to lose their grandfathered status,” he told the federal agencies.
“On the other hand,” Hoey added, “when generic alternatives become available, the brand-name prescription drug is routinely placed in a higher co-pay tier in the drug formulary to promote the use of the generic. That is indeed a ‘reasonable routine change’ and should not be grounds for a plan losing its grandfathered status.”
FDA approves emergency contraceptive Ella
SILVER SPRING, Md. The Food and Drug Administration has approved an emergency contraceptive pill made by a French drug maker.
The FDA announced the approval of Ella (ulipristal acetate), designed to prevent pregnancy when taken orally within five days of unprotected sex or contraceptive failure, though it is not designed for routine use as a contraceptive.
The drug, which works by preventing ovulation, is manufactured by Paris-based Laboratoire HRA Pharma and distributed by Morristown, N.J.-based Watson. Watson said it plans to launch the drug in the fourth quarter of this year.
Meda ventures into generic drugs
SOMERSET, N.J. A lot of generic drug companies have conducted business in the branded drug market on the side for a long time, with Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and Watson Pharmaceuticals standing out as good examples. But lately, some branded drug companies have sought to get into generics as well.
Meda Pharmaceuticals, the U.S. subsidiary of Swedish drug maker Meda A.B., recently decided to create its own generics subsidiary, calling it Wallace Pharmaceuticals, senior marketing director John White told Drug Store News.
“The strategy demonstrates Meda’s efforts to diversify and align and better serve the needs [and] interest of our customers,” White said. “We believe our ability to provide consistency in therapeutic effect, manufacturing and supply to our parent company’s branded products will prove to be a competitive advantage for Wallace Pharmaceuticals.”
Wallace will focus its business in the United States, with a core portfolio of allergy and pain medicines, White said. The company currently has no plans to enter the biosimilars market, however.