PHARMACY

NACDS raising alarm over budget cuts as Washington state attacks health costs

BY Jim Frederick

ALEXANDRIA, Va. Budget cuts in Washington state to its Medicaid programs have created a “perilous situation” for retail pharmacies and their patients, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores warned on Wednesday, and could “pose danger as a precedent for other states across the nation as well,” according to the group.

 

NACDS is calling the budget-cutting directive by Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire a “public health and safety threat.” In response, the chain pharmacy group has mobilized a coordinated effort among NACDS members, state association partners and other allies to block the cuts. The source of the alarm: an across-the-board order from Gregoire to all agencies in the state to cut 6.3% from their budgets in order to deal with Washington’s fiscal crisis. The cuts are among a list of fiscal hits to the state’s Medicaid program, run by the Health Recovery Services Administration, and two of them will “directly impact community pharmacies,” according to NACDS.

 

 

The cuts will be two-phased. Beginning Jan. 1, 2011, all seniors on the Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage plan “will have to either pay their own co-payments directly to the pharmacy, or the pharmacy will be legally able to deny them prescription drugs and services,” noted NACDS. Washington budget planners estimated the action will save the state $3.2 million.

 

 

The state is looking for much greater savings from a second action, scheduled to take effect next spring. Effective March 1, 2011, Gregoire is proposing to kill all Medicaid outpatient prescription drug coverage to adults 21 years of age and older. “This includes fee-for-service, as well as those enrolled in managed care,” NACDS warned its members today. That move will save the state nearly $40 million, according to projections.

 

 

In response, NACDS said it is “working with NACDS member companies that serve patients in Washington state, with the Washington State Pharmacy Association and with other allies to develop and implement strategies to confront this situation proactively.” The group is warning policy-makers that cutting subsidies to lower-income patients and those on fixed incomes will produce harmful, higher-cost long-term impacts by denying some patients the preventive health benefits of medicines, reducing adherence and creating the need for more higher-cost emergency care treatments.

 

 

“Poor medication adherence lead[s] to $290 billion in annual healthcare costs, or 13% of all healthcare expenditures,” NACDS pointed out in a rapid-action communique to its members. “This action by Washington state – or actions like it elsewhere – can only worsen this situation.”

 

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Report: Government officials question FDA’s approval of generic Lovenox

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK Government officials said problems have arisen with the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of a generic blood-thinning drug due to its previous relationship with the generic drug’s manufacturer, according to published reports.

 

According to The Wall Street Journal, a congressional committee was planning to release a report Tuesday showing that the FDA created the appearance of compromised integrity in its review and approval of an applicaton for a generic version of Sanofi-Aventis’ Lovenox (enoxaparin) submitted by Momenta Pharmaceuticals and Sandoz because Momenta had provided free consulting work in 2008 while the agency was investigating contaminated supplies of the blood thinner heparin imported from China. Sandoz, the generics arm of Swiss drug maker Novartis, is co-marketing the generic version of Lovenox with Momenta.

 

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IMS Health executive: Generic competition can help U.S. save billions

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK Loss of patent protection for branded drugs and subsequent competition from generics could save the U.S. healthcare system $70 billion or more over the next four years, according to published reports.

 

Reuters reported IMS Health SVP Murray Aitken as saying at the Reuters Health Summit that generics also would increase their dominance in terms of prescriptions dispensed, increasing from 77% during the first half of this year to perhaps 85% by 2014.

 

 

Anumber of blockbuster drugs are expected to lose patent protection and face generic competition in the years to come, notably Pfizer’s cholesterol drug Lipitor (atorvastatin calcium) –– the world’s top-selling drug, with more than $7 billion in sales in the United States alone, according to IMS –– which will lose protection next year and face generic competition from Ranbaxy Labs.

 

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