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NCPA: Energy ‘positive’ during 116th Annual Convention

BY Antoinette Alexander

AUSTIN, Texas — Hundreds of attendees gathered in Austin, Texas, to attend the National Community Pharmacists Association’s 116th Annual Convention and Trade Exposition — a meeting marked with positive energy and optimism for the future of community pharmacy.

“This is the first time in NCPA’s 116-year history that we’ve been in Austin and it has been a great meeting for us,” NCPA CEO B. Douglas Hoey said during a media briefing on Tuesday. “… The personality of this meeting is one of positive energy and really looking toward the future. It has been an exciting time in Austin."

Roughly 300 attendees flocked to the Austin Convention Center to attend the event, held Oct. 18 to 22.

During Hoey’s Convention address, he highlighted several key issues that, according to an NCPA survey in late 2013, are top of mind for NCPA members. NCPA represents the interests of America's community pharmacists, including the owners of more than 23,000 independent community pharmacies.

The critical issues Hoey addressed include:

  • The exclusion of independent and regional pharmacies from Part D preferred networks. Responding to the concern and ramping up efforts to resolve the issue, the NCPA “has seen what appears to be some demonstrable progress in allowing independent community pharmacies and regional chains to be able to participate in Part D preferred networks in 2015,” Hoey said. However, more work lies ahead and Hoey stressed that it is “not a case of declaring victory, but it is certainly a case of declaring major progress.”
  • Reimbursements on generic medications are trailing increasing generic pricing. “Over the last year and a half, hundreds of generic prices have been exploding in price. For example, a common steroid cream going from $100 for a tube to $250 for a tube, and that’s a real example. … It is really standing on its head the conventional wisdom that generic products are always less expensive than brands. While that is still usually true, it is no longer an automatic,” Hoey said. “So, because of that change in the marketplace it has really exacerbated a practice in our industry and that is when the price goes up on the product the payment rate to the pharmacy does not go up.” Hoey said NCPA has asked Congress to look into why generic drug prices are soaring and there’s a lag in the changes to pharmacy rates.
  • Pay-for-performance networks of pharmacy. “With CMS’ quality measures tied to star ratings, there is a high interest both by pharmacies and by payors in increasing the plan star ratings through these quality measures,” Hoey explained. “We are encouraging pharmacies to increase those quality measures to get them as high as possible, but we also think that pharmacies are going to begin developing networks based on these quality measures.” Hoey went on to highlight NCPA’s “Simplify My Meds” medication synchronization program to boost adherence. More than 2,000 independent pharmacies have signed up for the program and have enrolled more than 75,000 patients who are now experiencing better adherence and outcomes. Meanwhile, many other pharmacies are participating in similar programs to improve patient medication adherence.

In providing an update on the legislative and regulatory front, Steve Pfister, NCPA SVP, government affairs, said NCPA continues to reach out to Congress in support of H.R. 4577, The Ensuring Seniors Access to Local Pharmacies Act, which was introduced in May.

Another priority among NCPA members is H.R. 4437, the Generic Drug Pricing Transparency Act, Pfister said. “Perhaps most significantly, as far as developments on the generic pricing issue, is what has occurred over the last couple of weeks."

On Oct. 2, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Sen. Bernard Sanders, chairman of the Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging, Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, sent letters to 14 drug manufacturers requesting information about the higher prices they have been charging for generic drugs. This has since been followed up with a letter to HHS, calling on the Obama Administration to look into the price spikes, Pfister said.

“We will continue to monitor this closely and we are very hopeful that during the lame duck session of Congress that there will be an oversight hearing conducted on this issue, which has been very problematic for community pharmacy,” Pfister said.

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Krusteaz goes gluten-free

BY Ryan Chavis

SEATTLE — Krusteaz — a maker of baking, pancake and waffle mixes — on Tuesday debuted its first line of gluten-free products, which will be available at most grocery stores across the country. The company is confident that the gluten-free items will be just as tasty as its traditional counterparts — so much so that it will provide a refund to any consumer who isn't satisfied with the mixes.
 
"We created our gluten free line because we believe that if you don't eat gluten, you shouldn't have to sacrifice taste and quality," said Andy Heily, SVP sales and marketing, Krusteaz. "We believe these products are so good that consumers will be shocked they are eating gluten free."
 
The line includes:
 
  • Gluten Free Buttermilk Pancake Mix;
  • Gluten Free Blueberry Muffin Mix;
  • Gluten Free Honey Cornbread & Muffin Mix; and
  • Gluten Free Double Chocolate Brownie Mix.
Krusteaz gluten-free mixes are available for $4.49 each. 
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Boehringer Ingelheim’s Ofev caps now available

BY Ryan Chavis

RIDGEFIELD, Conn. — Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals on Monday announced that Ofev (nintedanib) capsules are now available in the United States. Ofev was approved by the Food and Drug Administration on Oct. 15 to treat idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. IPF is a condition in which the lungs scar over time. As a result of the scarring, patients with IPF experience shortness of breath, cough and have trouble taking part in physical activities. The disease is rare, fatal and affects nearly 132,000 Americans, according to the company.
 
To support the launch of Ofev, Boehringer Ingelheim established Open Doors, a patient support program that provides financial and nursing support services. One of the goals of Open Doors is to help patients who are prescribed the medicine gain rapid, affordable access to it. 
 
“We are proud to be able to offer IPF patients an effective therapy for this rare and fatal disease, together with comprehensive programs and services to support patients and healthcare providers as they begin therapy with Ofev,” said Tunde Otulana, M.D., a pulmonologist and SVP, clinical development and medical affairs at Boehringer Ingelheim. “Bringing a new treatment such as Ofev to patients when there is such significant unmet need is the result of many years of research and demonstrates our commitment to making a difference for patients with respiratory diseases.”
 
Ofev is available through specialty pharmacy distrubutors as well a select network of pharmacies. 
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