HEALTH

NACDS urges congressional panel to preserve DME exemption for retail pharmacy

BY Antoinette Alexander

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The National Association of Chain Drug Stores announced on Wednesday that it has submitted comments to the U.S. House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health urging that retail pharmacies remain exempt from the Medicare durable medical equipment competitive bidding program. The subcommittee held a hearing regarding the program on Wednesday.

“Without this exclusion, it is highly unlikely that retail pharmacies would be able to furnish DTS [diabetes testing supplies] in Medicare, since competitive bidding reimbursement rates are below DTS product costs for retail pharmacies. Limiting access to DTS will lead to poorer health outcomes and escalating costs of care,” NACDS stated in its comments. “This reimbursement reduction would hurt access to care and severely limit the valuable role of pharmacist-patient interactions in reducing overall program spending. Such reduced access and the elimination of face-to-face pharmacist counseling will lead to under-testing, decreased medication adherence, poorer outcomes, and increased overall costs.”
 
NACDS also urged alternative cost-savings approaches for the Medicare program, including moving diabetic testing supplies from Part B to Part D. Currently, prescription drugs related to diabetes, such as insulin, are provided to Medicare beneficiaries through Part D. However, durable medical equipment, such as diabetes monitors, testing strips and lancets, are provided to Medicare beneficiaries through Part B.
 
“Diabetes supplies should be covered through the Part D benefit. This would mirror commercial practices, would allow beneficiaries with diabetes to access necessary medications and supplies from the same provider if they chose, and would reduce costs by moving products to the more efficient Part D program,” NACDS stated in its comments.
 
NACDS also noted in its comments that chain pharmacies make up 66% of retail community pharmacies and are a “vital access point” for both diabetes testing supplies and prescription medications.
 
“Pharmacists are uniquely qualified as medication experts to work with patients needing medical supplies, such as diabetes testing supplies. Pharmacists play a key role in ensuring patients use their supplies in the most proper and meaningful way,” NACDS said.

In related news, the National Community Pharmacists Association announced it has endorsed the Medicare Access to Diabetes Supplies Act (H.R. 1936), which was introduced by Reps. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., and Peter Welch, D-Vt. The legislation would allow seniors to continue receiving essential diabetes testing supplies and expert counseling on their proper use, from independent community pharmacies, NCPA said.

"This bipartisan bill would help ensure that seniors can continue to rely on their independent community pharmacy for these essential diabetes supplies and the expert counseling needed to effectively manage their condition," NCPA CEO Douglas Hoey said. "At the same time, this proposal will reduce Medicare costs because it improves health outcomes."


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Cirrus Healthcare folds popular SpongeBob SquarePants Iicense into kids’ earplug line

BY Michael Johnsen

COLD SPRING HARBOR, N.Y. — Cirrus Healthcare on Wednesday launched a SpongeBob SquarePants-licensed line of earplugs designed to protect children when swimming, showering and studying, and during loud events.

The SpongeBob SquarePants ultra soft earplugs employs the same technology as BioEars, a soft silicone earplug that uses ActivAloe, a patented aloe vera application.

The SpongeBob SquarePants ultra soft earplugs will be merchandised in pairs of three in a waterproof carry case.


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Study: Probiotics may be able to reduce antibiotic-associated diarrhea incidence

BY Michael Johnsen

CHICAGO — Consumption of probiotics is associated with a reduced risk of antibiotic-associated diarrhea, a common adverse effect of antibiotic use, according to a review and meta-analysis of previous studies published in the May 9 issue of JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"The use of antibiotics that disturb the gastrointestinal flora [microbes] is associated with clinical symptoms, such as diarrhea, which occurs in as many as 30% of patients," wrote Susanne Hempel of RAND Health. "Symptoms range from mild and self-limiting to severe, particularly in Clostridium difficile infections, and antibiotic-associated diarrhea is an important reason for nonadherence with antibiotic treatment."

Potentially, probiotics maintain or restore gut microecology (microbial ecology) during or after antibiotic treatment. "There is an increasing interest in probiotic interventions, and evidence for the effectiveness of probiotics in preventing or treating AAD is also increasing," Hempel said.

Across a patient population of almost 12,000 included in the meta-analysis, probiotic use was associated with a 42% lower risk of developing diarrhea compared with a control group not using probiotics. The result was consistent across a number of subgroup and sensitivity analyses.

The researchers note that there exists significant heterogeneity (differences across studies) in pooled results, and the evidence is insufficient to determine whether this association varies systematically by population, antibiotic characteristic or probiotic preparation.

"In summary, our review found sufficient evidence to conclude that adjunct probiotic administration is associated with a reduced risk of AAD. This generalized conclusion likely obscures heterogeneity in effectiveness among the patients, the antibiotics and the probiotic strains or blends," Hempel wrote. "Future studies should assess these factors and explicitly assess the possibility of adverse events to better refine our understanding of the use of probiotics to prevent AAD."

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