HEALTH

Military cutting costs via Rx negotiations; NACDS hails finding as pharmacy victory

BY Jim Frederick

ALEXANDRIA, Va. Vindicating claims made over the last two years or more by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and other pharmacy groups, the Department of Defense revealed that allowing the military to negotiate with drug manufacturers for lower prices on retail prescriptions is saving taxpayers big sums of money.

NACDS president and CEO Steven Anderson Thursday hailed the findings as a victory for community pharmacies — and for freedom of choice for military members and their families.

The Defense Department revealed that it will spend an estimated $1.67 billion less on prescription drug medications in the 2010 fiscal year than previously projected. Behind the cost savings: a change in the way the agency obtains drug supplies for prescriptions sold in community pharmacies to beneficiaries enrolled in the TRICARE military health program. That change became effective with the release of new DoD regulations in March that allow the military to obtain pricing discounts for prescriptions sold at retail.

Those discounts, generated through direct negotiations between federal procurement officials and pharmaceutical companies, are clearly lowering the costs for the TRICARE program — and for the military beneficiaries who fill prescriptions in local community pharmacies.

“This is a true victory for military service members and their families,” Anderson said. “A rule implemented earlier this year enabled the Department of Defense to obtain pricing discounts for retail prescription medications,” he added. “Those discounts will result in remarkable savings for the Department, which translates to pharmacy choice for TRICARE beneficiaries. Military families will maintain the option to obtain their prescriptions and other pharmacy services from a retail pharmacy.

Anderson cited “an ongoing, multi-year effort” by NACDS to preserve freedom of choice for military beneficiaries, and to prevent the government from discouraging those beneficiaries — via higher out-of-pocket costs — from obtaining their prescriptions at a retail pharmacy rather than through a mail order pharmacy or military base pharmacy. The pricing discounts had long been sought by the retail pharmacy industry as a way to level the playing field between retail and mail order pharmacies serving the more than 9 million military health beneficiaries enrolled in the federal program. Historically, retail pharmacies have operated at a competitive disadvantage vis-a-vis mail-order and military-base pharmacies, because prescription costs were higher for military members and their families if they chose to fill their scripts in a community pharmacy setting.

“The value of a pharmacist in counseling on adhering to medication regimens, preventing possible drug interactions and improving health outcomes is invaluable to all patients, and should not be limited for the brave men and women and their families who serve and sacrifice,” Anderson asserted.

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Consumer Reports discusses H1N1 precautions in new issue

BY Allison Cerra

YONKERS, N.Y. As the U.S. prepares for a possible second wave of the novel H1N1 pandemic, as well as for the annual scourge of seasonal flu and colds, a new report from Consumer Reports helps households prepare for, prevent, and treat cold and flu symptoms safely and effectively, including recommendations for what to pack in an emergency kit for a flu outbreak.

Consumer Reports discusses the “what if?” in their newest issue, suggesting that if a second wave of H1N1 is severe enough to warrant home confinement, consumers should pack an emergency kit in advance, which should include:

  • A two-week supply of food and water.
  • Such fever reducers as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen.
  • Cough and cold medications containing chlorpheniramine, diphenhydramine, oxymetazoline, and pseudoephedrine and lozenges with dyclonine, glycerin, or honey can help ease symptoms.
  • Electrolyte drinks, such as Gatorade or Powerade, to keep you hydrated.
  • Hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol, such as Purell, to kill viruses when soap and water aren’t available.
  • Surgical masks with an FDA rating of at least N-95 to help prevent spreading the flu. Masks need to be replaced often and disposed of after use.

For all emergencies, Consumer Reports recommends packing at least three days’ worth of nonperishable food; at least one gallon of water per person, per day; a first-aid kit that includes any prescription or over-the-counter medications your family might need; as well as antihistamines for allergic reactions, pain relievers, stomach and antidiarrhea remedies, and antacids.

Consumer Reports also points out that it recommends everyone — but especially high-risk people — get vaccinated against regular, seasonal flu before the year’s end.

“This could be an especially big year for flu, so people need to take every precaution and double their efforts to safeguard their families,” said Joel Keehn, senior editor, Consumer Reports. “Even when the vaccine doesn’t prevent seasonal flu, it often lessens its symptoms. In terms of treatments, certain antiviral drugs can not only ease symptoms of seasonal flu but also shorten its duration and possibly prevent complications as well. Some of those drugs probably help against swine flu too. Antivirals work best if taken early on in the illness, so it’s best to take them at the first sign of symptoms.”

Additionally, the new report also discusses which cold and allergy medications are the best remedies for ailments, as Consumer Reports discusses both “at-home remedies” and generic versions of over-the-counter medications.

The report is available in the September 2009 issue of Consumer Reports and online at www.ConsumerReportsHealth.org.

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Church & Dwight Co. report strong Q2 earnings

BY Anna Mcgrath

PRINCETON, N.J. Church & Dwight Co. reported a net-income increase for the quarter ended June 26 to $58.2 million, compared with last year’s $45.8 million.

Net sales for the second quarter rose approximately 5% to $623.1 million.

“We are very pleased with our solid second quarter results, particularly in this difficult economic environment. We were able to increase market share for six of our eight “power brands” in the quarter, achieve continued strong organic sales growth in our household product line and effect a turnaround to positive organic sales growth in our personal care product line. Our results also reflect exceptional gross and operating margin expansion. The improved gross margin reflects lower commodity costs, pricing, acquisition benefits relating to the businesses acquired from Coty and our continuing robust cost reduction programs,” said chairman and CEO James R. Craigie.

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