PHARMACY

NACDS commends CMS for MTM boost for patients in 2010

BY Allison Cerra

ALEXANDRIA, Va. Following the release of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ final “call letter” for the 2010 plan year, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores expressed support for a provision that will improve the medication therapy management benefit under Medicare Part D.

NACDS commended CMS for including positive MTM changes in the final call letter, which will help open the door to improved MTM availability and offerings. In addition to improving standards for targeting of MTM services, the final call letter requires plans to offer an enhanced menu of MTM interventions, such as a comprehensive medication review by a pharmacist or other qualified provider, at least annually and quarterly targeted medication reviews for all beneficiaries enrolled in MTM programs. These uniform standards will help enhance the value of MTM services offered to Medicare beneficiaries.

As envisioned by the Medicare Modernization Act, MTM is a program of drug therapy management intended to ensure that drugs are used appropriately in order to optimize therapeutic outcomes through improved medication use and to reduce the risk of adverse events.

“We are pleased that CMS plans to enhance MTM programs in 2010. As we enter the healthcare reform debate this year, it is important to understand how critical MTM is in helping to improve patient outcomes and help lower healthcare costs,” said NACDS president and CEO Steve  Anderson. “During these challenging economic times, your neighborhood pharmacy can provide resources and counseling that can help patients to improve their health now to avoid high costs later, while not stretching their wallets. This is an important incremental step forward for MTM – a key component of the NACDS Principles of Healthcare Reform. NACDS will continue to work with Congress and the Administration to further improve and expand MTM efforts.”

NACDS did express concern about a provision in the letter that will eliminate reference-based pricing in Part D in 2010. Contrary to NACDS’ urging, CMS intends to move forward with this plan which will likely have a negative impact on generic prescription drug utilization. In an earlier letter to CMS, NACDS urged the agency to retain reference-based pricing.

The high generic utilization rate in Medicare Part D has been due, in part, to policies such as reference-based pricing. In addition, NACDS expressed concern that increased expenditures resulting from the elimination of reference-based pricing may be unfairly passed to all Medicare beneficiaries in the form of higher premiums, or to pharmacies in the form of reduced reimbursement.

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CVS Caremark expands partnership with Google Health

BY Antoinette Alexander

WOONSOCKET, R.I. CVS Caremark has expanded its partnership with Google Health so patients can now securely download their prescription and medication histories to their Google Health Account from CVS.com.

CVS Caremark has been a Google Health partner since it was launched in May 2008. Consumers using CVS Caremark for pharmacy benefit management services can already store, organize and manage their prescription history information online using Google Health. In addition, patients who receive treatment at MinuteClinic can also securely import their visit summaries to their Google Health Accounts.

“By enabling patients to download their prescription information directly into their personal health record, we are helping to close the gap in today’s fragmented health care system and provide a full view of a patient?s health,” stated Helena Foulkes, EVP at CVS Caremark.

To use the tool, customers of CVS/pharmacy must first be signed up for the Prescription Management feature on CVS.com. This feature also allows registered customers to manage their prescriptions online including ordering refills, choosing pickup locations, requesting prescription renewals and receiving alerts on generic alternatives. In order to maintain patient privacy, the consumer making the request for information will need to be authenticated on the CVS.com Web site before any data is shared with Google Health.

“With CVS/pharmacy now integrated on Google Health in addition to our other pharmacy and PBM partners, we estimate there are more than 100 million Americans who can get access to their prescription history online and securely download it to Google Health,” stated Sameer Samat, director of product management, Google Health. “This is good news, because having a current list of all your medications in one place helps you doctor, pharmacist, hospital and other care providers do a better job of taking care of you.”

Patients can sign up for Google Health by visiting www.google.com/health.

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FDA posts, removes briefing documents regarding Seroquel XR

BY Alaric DeArment

WILMINGTON, Del. The Food and Drug Administration posted and then removed briefing documents on its Web site for the Psychopharmacologic Drugs Advisory Committee meeting Wednesday.

The meeting concerns an application that drug maker AstraZeneca submitted for an additional use of the drug Seroquel XR (quetiapine fumarate) as a treatment for major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.

The company said it understands that some people accessed the documents before their removal, and that it wishes to ensure all investors have access to the information contained in the previously released FDA briefing materials. For that reason, it has posted the documents, as well as AstraZeneca briefing documents, on its own Web site.

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