PHARMACY

McKesson public policy forum encourages pharmacists to get involved

BY Michael Johnsen

SAN DIEGO — California state Sen. Jeff Stone, a former independent pharmacist himself, had one message for independent pharmacists during the McKesson ideaShare 2015 Public Policy session in San Diego — don’t just vote, get involved.

(To view the full Chain Pharmacy Category Review, click here.)

“We need more pharmacist leaders,” he said. “As the most respected profession in the country, you have a leg up, and I’m going to encourage you, today, to get involved in your local politics,” Stone said. “Pharmacy is the most respected profession in the country. You have no idea the powerful message that this sends when you’re running for office. It gives you immediate credibility. We need to have ambassadors at all levels of government so that we can enhance and advance our profession.”

Having a voice in those legislative halls is becoming more and more important as government becomes a bigger payer of healthcare services, noted Joe Ganley, McKesson VP government affairs. “The reality is that for all of our businesses, government politics touches us, so we have to be involved,” Ganley said. “If we can elevate our public policy advocacy beyond our narrow business interests, and frame it in a system-wide ‘what’s good for the healthcare system, what’s good for patients kind of way,’ we’ll all benefit tremendously. Pharmacists are some of the most well-trained and under-utilized providers in the healthcare system, and we should be putting them to work on the front lines helping patients to get and stay healthy.”

Some of the key political battles facing independent operators today included provider status, vaccination requirements and creating a fair marketplace when it comes to pharmacy benefit managers.

Health Mart owners Alex Obeid and Jeff Sherr joined Ganley and Stone on stage for a roundtable discussion on how best to champion the role pharmacy plays in healthcare delivery in the halls of legislators.

As the healthcare paradigm evolves from a volume-based system to a value-based system, that role is significant. “We really have an opportunity here to expose to the world what it is that we bring to the table,” Obeid said. “This is a healthcare dynamic that’s not going to go away. We’re going to be excluded if we don’t speak out.”

“The business of pharmacy is a changing paradigm,” Sherr said. “As pharmacists we have a choice. We can either make dust or we can eat dust. Through this whole McKesson ideaShare 2015, the whole discussion has been about patient outcomes and talking about med sync and adherence. So much of that is the way that we can prove to people the value that pharmacists and pharmacy actually have.”

The Forum speakers encouraged ideaShare participants to get involved by getting to know their elected representatives, engaging in their pharmacy associations and learning about the key public policy issues that face community pharmacy practice today.  

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Sandoz launches first U.S. biosimilar Zarxio

BY David Salazar

HOLZKIRCHEN, Germany — Sandoz on Thursday announced that it had launched its Zarxio (filgrastim-sndz) injection, a biosimilar of Amgen’s Neupogen (filgrastim). The drug is the first biosimilar drug to launch in the U.S. Zarxio, intended to reduce risk of infection in patients with a low count of white blood cells, is available in boxes of 0.5- and 0.8-ml single-use injections. 

“As the pioneer and global leader in biosimilars, Sandoz has maintained a commitment to bringing high-quality biosimilar medicines to patients and healthcare professionals around the world,” Sandoz’s global head Richard Francis said. “With the launch of Zarxio, we look forward to increasing patient, prescriber and payer access to filgrastim in the US by offering a high-quality, more affordable version of this important oncology medicine.”

Alongside Zarxio, Sandoz is launching is OneSource patient services center that will offer resources and information for patients. 

Though it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration on March 6, Sandoz fought an injunction by Amgen that prevented it from being sold. A July ruling resolved the case, saying that a company whose biosimilar has been approved by the FDA must give the original drug maker 180 days’ notice of commercial marketing before launch.

Thursday's launch was praised by the Generic Pharmaceutical Association’s Biosmilars Council. 

“The Biosimilars Council … is very pleased that a federal appeals court has cleared the way for patients to access the first FDA-approved biosimilar,” the organization said. “The launch of Zarxio is a victory for all champions of improving access and affordability in healthcare.”

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Kmart pays $1.4 million Medicare settlement

BY Dan Berthiaume

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. – Kmart has paid the U.S. government $1.4 million to resolve allegations that it improperly used drug manufacturer coupons and gasoline discounts to reduce pharmacy costs for Medicare patients at Kmart pharmacies.

The settlement resolves allegations that Kmart violated the False Claims Act by providing illegal inducements to beneficiaries of the Medicare program. The government alleged that from June 2011 to June 2014, Kmart influenced the decisions of Medicare beneficiaries to bring their prescriptions to its pharmacies by permitting them to use drug manufacturer coupons to reduce or eliminate prescription co-pays.  

Federal law prohibits influencing a Medicare patient’s choice of provider with this type of offer. The government alleged that Kmart’s conduct caused the Medicare beneficiaries to seek expensive, brand name drugs instead of cheaper generic drugs, which caused the government’s costs to increase without any medical benefit. The government also alleged that Kmart improperly encouraged Medicare beneficiaries to bring their prescriptions to Kmart pharmacies by offering them discounts on gasoline based on the number of prescriptions that they filled at Kmart pharmacies.

The settlement resolves allegations in a lawsuit filed by Joshua Leighr, a former Kmart pharmacist, who will receive approximately $248,500 of the settlement. Kmart is not accepting any liability as part of the settlement.

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