PHARMACY

NCPA: E-prescribing should be more efficient in two-way communication, cost

BY Alaric DeArment

ALEXANDRIA, Va. Providing grants to offset implementation and transaction fee costs and making two-way communication between prescribers and pharmacists easier were two suggestions for improvements to electronic prescribing that the National Community Pharmacists Association had for an e-prescribing committee Monday.

In written testimony at a hearing of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Information Technology Policy Committee Information Exchange Workgroup, the NCPA described independent pharmacies’ experiences accepting e-prescribing from physicians and gave some ideas for expanding the practice.

“Community pharmacists have a vested interest in making e-prescribing work because it potentially provides more accurate and faster electronic transmittal to pharmacists of computerized prescription information than written prescriptions,” NCPA CEO and EVP Bruce Roberts said in a statement. “However, challenges remain in the adoption and implementation of this technology, which is why I hope our recommendations to the information workgroup and the HIT policy committee are ultimately embraced.”

According to the testimony, current communication systems allow physicians to send prescriptions to pharmacists, but they don’t allow pharmacists to communicate back to physicians. The organization also said that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ e-prescribing participation requirements don’t incentivize physicians to increase their current levels of participation.

“The reality is that some pharmacists and pharmacies – particularly independent ones – are facing significant cost challenges in implementing e-prescribing,” Roberts said. “Actions taken by federal and state authorities should reflect those requirements and incentives that will firmly encourage the implementation of an effective, robust system of e-prescribing.”

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FDA approves Ampyra

BY Alaric DeArment

ROCKVILLE, Md. The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new drug for improving walking ability in adults with multiple sclerosis, the agency announced Friday.

The FDA approved Acorda Therapeutics’ Ampyra (dalfampridine) extended-release tablets, designed to be administered in daily 10-mg doses. The agency’s approval was based on clinical trials that showed patients treated with the drug had faster walking speeds than those who received placebo. Ireland-based Elan will manufacture the drug using its technology platform, while Acorda will market it in the United States. Biogen Idec will market it in other countries.

“Trouble with walking is one of the most debilitating problems people with MS face,” FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research Division of Neurology Products director Russell Katz said.

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Cascade Health Solutions opens Primary Care Clinic

BY Antoinette Alexander

EUGENE, Ore. Cascade Health Solutions, a local nonprofit healthcare provider, is opening here on Feb. 1 a membership-based primary care clinic that will be staffed by a full-time nurse practitioner to treat members.

Unlike other retail medical clinics, the Primary Care Clinic will serve as a medical “home” for ongoing healthcare needs.

According to Cascade Health Solutions, the clinic will offer membership-based primary medical care to individuals and families who lack health insurance or who only have catastrophic coverage. The basic month-to-month membership cost is $45 for individuals; families of four or more enrolling together pay $40 per person each month. There is no enrollment fee to join and members will pay $20 per visit.

Membership will be initially limited to 750 members and will then grow to 2,500 in the first year.

Services include routine checkups, office visits, health education and counseling as well as treatment for such chronic illnesses as diabetes and high blood pressure. There are no caps for chronic conditions. Patients can visit the clinic as often as desired provided they pay their monthly membership costs and the $20 office visit fee for each visit. Preventive, birth control and mental health services are also available to members.

A variety of diagnostic tests also are available as part of the office-visit fee of $20, including throat cultures, PAP smears, and other standard tests and screenings.

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