PHARMACY

NACDS, NCPA urge Congress: tread carefully on patient privacy

BY Jim Frederick

ALEXANDRIA, Va. Adopting health information technology and electronic recordkeeping sooner rather than later is a good thing for the health care system. But in a rush to legislate new HIT patient privacy protections, Congress runs the risk of gumming up the works, chain and independent pharmacy leaders warned Friday.

With lawmakers urgently working on a massive economic stimulus package that includes HIT provisions, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association urged Congress to tread carefully with any HIT and privacy provisions contained in a stimulus bill. Both groups have been in the front lines of efforts to convert the health care system to electronic data storage and transmission since 2001, when they co-sponsored the creation of electronic prescribing network provider SureScripts.

In a joint statement issued today, the leaders of the two pharmacy group leaders made their case. “HIT has the potential to save lives and improve the value of patient care,” said NACDS president and chief executive officer Steven Anderson and NCPA executive vice president and CEO Bruce Roberts. “Not only can it improve patient outcomes, but in these economically challenging times, if implemented properly, HIT can produce cost savings that benefit the entire healthcare system.”

To that end, Anderson and Roberts asked federal lawmakers to ensure that any combined legislation does not interfere with pharmacies’ operations—or the ability of pharmacists to share protected patient data with other health providers in a fully integrated network of patient care “while assuring adequate protections for protected health information.”

Previous attempts to legislate patient-privacy protections and electronic recordkeeping haven’t always hit the mark, NACDS and NCPA warn. “For example, so-called privacy provisions that have been proposed in the last Congress would stifle prescription refill reminders, which foster medication adherence. Another example is a proposed definition of ‘breach’ of patient information that would disrupt efficiency throughout the entire healthcare system while not providing patients with truly meaningful privacy protections.”

NACDS and NCPA recently joint a wide-ranging group of health care organizations lobbying Congress as members of the AMP Coalition, a group representing all segments of the prescription drug delivery system, including drug manufacturers, wholesale drug distributors, chain and independent pharmacies, pharmacists and pharmacy benefit managers.

“We urge the inclusion of pharmacists and pharmacies as eligible entities for grant funding,” the coalition noted in a letter to House and Senate leaders. “Pharmacies must adopt health information technology to continue to meet consumers’ needs, but are challenged in finding the resources to do so.

“Pharmacists are the most readily available healthcare resource for consumers, and should be allowed an opportunity to help shape national policy affecting health information technology,” the letter continued. “Consequently, we believe it would be premature or even ill advised for Congress to attempt to legislate substantively in an area that remains highly contentious.

“We ask Congress to legislate at this time on economic stimulus related to HIT adoption, but to continue to hold hearings and engage in further discussions on issues related to privacy,” the coalition stated.

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PHARMACY

Liquidia partners with Abbott on genetic disease treatment research

BY Alaric DeArment

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. A pharmaceutical company and a nanotechnology company will collaborate to develop particles to deliver short interfering RNA particle therapeutics.

Liquidia Technologies and Abbott announced the collaboration Wednesday, in which they will use Liquidia’s PRINT technology to fabricate nanoparticles of precise shape, size and chemistry to shut off genes associated with certain diseases.

“Delivery has been the most significant hurdle to realizing the broad potential of siRNA therapeutics,” Liquidia CEO Neal Fowler said in a statement. “We are very pleased to form a partnership with Abbott, which we hope will enable significant progress in addressing this problem.”

Under the agreement, Liquidia will provide Abbott with certain rights to PRINT technology for developing and commercializing siRNA therapeutics. The two companies did not disclose financial terms.

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PhRMA, health organizations release video ad pushing healthcare reform

BY Alaric DeArment

WASHINGTON Six organizations representing a broad portion of the U.S. healthcare industry unveiled an advertisement Thursday to promote healthcare reform as a top priority for the incoming Obama Administration and the next Congress.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, Regence BlueCross BlueShield, the American Medical Association, the Service Employees International Union, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and Families USA showed the 30-second ad at a press conference at the American Medical Association’s headquarters in Washington Thursday.

The ad focuses on the country’s manufacturing industries, opening with shots of decrepit factories and cobwebbed equipment, followed by shots of working factories with employees. It opens with the line, “At a time when American businesses are hurting, why should we worry about fixing health care? Because quality, affordable health care can save money and make businesses more competitive.”

The organizations plant to run the ad until Feb. 5, possibly later.

“Expanding access to quality and affordable health insurance is good for patients and good for our economy,” PhRMA president and CEO Billy Tauzin said in a statement released with the ad. “Improved access means we can do more to promote prevention and more to detect and treat conditions at an early stage, when we can do the most to avoid poor health outcomes and costly complications of chronic diseases, which account for seven out of every 10 deaths in America.”

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