Judge upholds Medi-Cal cuts
LOS ANGELES —Snatching a short-lived victory away from thousands of pharmacists in California, a state court here reversed an earlier decision to halt a steep, 10 percent cut in the state’s Medicaid program, Medi-Cal.
The ruling, issued July 29 by Los Angeles Superior Court judge William Highberger, overturned a court injunction issued just days earlier. Highberger ruled that the cuts, which went into effect July 1, would remain in effect on the grounds that the court didn’t have the legal authority to halt the cuts, despite issuing a statement in support of the argument by pharmacy advocates that the cuts would harm local pharmacy operators and could curtail access to health care for millions of low-income Californians.
“The court recognized the dramatic impacts the Medi-Cal cuts will have on Medi-Cal beneficiaries and the state’s healthcare system, but ruled on narrow procedural grounds” said Craig Cannizzo, the attorney for the coalition of healthcare providers that sued in May to block the reduction in payments.
The 10 percent reduction was adopted in an emergency budget session of California’s legislature early this year, and was immediately opposed by pharmacy and other health-care provider groups. Its impact, beginning July 1, has been to reduce the $7.25 fee California pharmacists are paid to dispense Medi-Cal prescriptions to approximately $6.50.
“This is a terrible blow to Medi-Cal providers across the state,” said Lynn Rolston, chief executive officer of the California Pharmacists Association. “Some pharmacists have already begun turning away patients as they are losing $10, $20, $30 or more on nearly every prescription filled.”
Court rules against Watson in Naprelan case
CORONA, Calif. The United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida ruled that Watson Pharmaceuticals’ naproxen sodium extended-release tablets, a generic version of the pain medication Naprelan, infringes the brand drug manufacturer’s patent, Watson announced Wednesday.
Elan initially brought the suit in October 1998 after Andrx filed an application for a generic version of the drug. In March 2002, the District Court ruled that Elan’s ‘320 patent was invalid. Watson acquired Andrx in November 2006.
In May 2004, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed the District Court’s finding of invalidity and remanded the case for further proceedings. In January 2005, Elan filed a related case against Andrx in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida alleging that Andrx’s generic drug infringes the patent and is seeking damages for willful infringement. In late 2005, the parties completed briefing the District Court on the validity of the patent and whether Andrx’s product infringes it, and the matter has been under submission to the District Court since then.
Watson said it intends to appeal the ruling.
Watson’s naproxen sodium tablets had sales of $4 million over the year ending June 30, according to IMS data.
Medicare officials predict lower 2009 Part D costs than expected
WASHINGTON Monthly premiums for Medicare’s Part D prescription drug program next year will be lower than expected, Medicare officials announced Thursday.
Based on bids submitted by Part D plans, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services estimated that the average monthly premium that recipients will pay for standard Part D coverage will be $28 – lower than the $44.12 predicted in 2003.
At the same time, it is $3 more than the premium for this year, mainly because of rising drug costs and higher plan estimates for catastrophic coverage and the phase-out of a CMS demonstration project.