PHARMACY

Industry groups urge quick action on financial relief bill in Congress

BY Jim Frederick

WASHINGTON In an unusual outreach effort to every member of Congress, a coalition of more than 50 trade associations including the National Association of Chain Drug Stores is prodding the House and Senate to pass legislation before the end of the week to rescue investment banks and restore credibility to the financial markets.

NACDS joined with other groups to send a jointly authored letter to all members of Congress, expressing disappointment in the failure early this week to pass the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act. Congress will again take up the measure Thursday.

“We are writing to express our profound disappointment in the House vote yesterday rejecting the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, and to urge both the House and Senate to act as soon as possible this week to enact legislation to bring stability to credit markets,” the letter stated.

Noting the stock market’s rout on Monday, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average staged its largest single-day point drop in history, the letter warned that the negative consequences of a failure to act on a bailout package for Wall Street would go far beyond that one-day, 778-point market decline. “Americans rely on credit and liquid markets to make our economy function, and we will continue to see our economy and the well-being of all Americans impacted unless Congress acts,” the group stated.

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Independent pharmacy organization backs insurance coverage relief bill

BY Jim Frederick

ALEXANDRIA, Va. The National Community Pharmacists Association has joined with other groups representing smaller-scale employers to back new federal legislation that could ease the health insurance cost burdens on smaller businesses.

NCPA, the nation’s largest independent pharmacy organization, yesterday announced its endorsement of H.R. 6582, the Small Business Cooperative for Health Care Options to Improve Coverage for Employees [CHOICE] Act of 2008. The bill, introduced by U.S. House Small Business Committee chair Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., with support from both parties, is aimed at keeping smaller employers from falling prey to steadily rising health care and insurance costs.

To do so, the CHOICE bill creates private, voluntary purchasing cooperatives established under state insurance laws to provide excess claims insurance coverage to participating small businesses. The bill allows those employers to pool health risks over a larger number of insured plan participants, thus reducing costs and, ultimately, premiums.

H.R. 6582 also provides a refundable tax credit to small employers who purchase health insurance for their employees through the cooperative.

“With the cost of health insurance for small businesses rising 80 percent in the past eight years, the time for action has clearly arrived,” responded NCPA executive vice president and chief executive officer Bruce Roberts. The CHOICE bill, he added, “expands access to high-quality, affordable health insurance access for American small businesses and the self-employed. This bill provides the common-sense solutions to improve economic growth and productivity by promoting a healthier work force.”

Among other groups supporting the legislation: the American Optometric Association, American Rental Association, Coca-Cola Bottlers’ Association, Computing Technology Industry Association, International Franchise Association, National Association for Self-Employed, National Association of Home Builders, National Association of Realtors, National Black Chamber of Commerce, National Community Pharmacists Association, National Funeral Directors Association, National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, National Restaurant Association, National Roofing Contractors Association, National Utility Contractors Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, and Women in Public Policy.

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No connection between Lou Gehrig’s disease and statins, FDA says

BY Alaric DeArment

WASHINGTON Cholesterol-lowering drugs do not increase the risk of Lou Gehrig’s disease, an analysis by the Food and Drug Administration has found.

The analysis, reported Monday in the journal Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety, used data from 41 long-term controlled clinical trials involving statins. The FDA conducted the analysis after receiving an unusually large number of reports of Lou Gehrig’s disease in patients using the drugs in its Adverse Event Reporting System, but did not find an increase in the number of statin patients with the disease compared with those taking a placebo.

“The FDA’s review, which began in 2007, is an example of the agency working to analyze products [throughout their lifecycle] to keep healthcare professionals and patients informed of new and emerging safety data,” said Dr. Mark Avignan, director of the Division of Pharmacovigilance I at the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

Lou Gehrig’s disease is the common name for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. It causes a gradual weakening of the muscles and impairment of speech ability.

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