PHARMACY

N.Y. pharmacies get what many have asked for: a level playing field vs. mail order

BY Michael Johnsen

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — Retail pharmacy has long fought for a level playing field when competing with mail order, and that’s what N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo handed them last week. No longer will patients be funneled into filling their prescriptions at the mail order pharmacy. And no longer will insurance companies be able to exempt patients from making the same co-payment as they do at retail. At least not in New York. There the market will finally be able to decide if patients want the no-frills rock-bottom prescription pricing they get from mail order or the personality of a pharmacist and the convenience of an easy-in, easy-out store front with that same rock-bottom pricing.

(THE NEWS: Reports: N.Y. Gov. Cuomo signs controversial mail-order pharmacy bill. For the full story, click here.)

Many would assume, so long as the prescription pricing is the same, that the personalized service a pharmacist can provide along with many other conveniences — 24-hour storefronts, drive-through pharmacies, mascara and cold medicine under the same roof — would become the prescription-filler of choice for all but maybe a smattering of shut-ins. That was certainly the sensing the week before the N.Y. bill was signed at a U.S. Senate hearing to discuss the proposed Express Scripts/Medco merger. Representing the National Community Pharmacists Association, pharmacist Susan Sutter threw down this gauntlet: "I would challenge [the PBMs that] if [mail order or pharmacy were] made it absolutely equal," then community pharmacy would win out.

And Cuomo, unfortunately, has made it absolutely equal with the stipulation that “a retail pharmacy must agree in advance to accept the same reimbursement rate and applicable terms and conditions established for mail-order pharmacies.” The problem there is mail-order pharmacy does not have nearly the overhead costs that retail pharmacy does. Acquisition costs are lower; supply chain and warehousing expenses are conceivably less; and there’s certainly a lot less capital expenditures and payroll expenditures to manage versus, say, a national chain.

What’s more, mail order fills 90-day prescriptions, a factor that would take two sure-fire trip occasions out of play for retail pharmacy.

So how will this all play out? Will the absolute volume of patients migrating from mail order to their local New York pharmacies, and the increased total marketbasket those consumers represent over the long-term, make up for what is expected to be the even-slimmer margins retailers will recuperate in serving these customers? And will any mass exodus from mail order to retail upset the prescription drug acquisition dynamics decidedly in favor of pharmacy? Asked another way, if you had a choice between an IMAX theater experience versus a sticky-floor two-screen cinema experience for the same $10, where would you buy your popcorn?

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PHARMACY

Lyrica produces ‘significant’ improvement in restless legs syndrome

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK — A drug made by Pfizer shows "significant" benefit to patients with restless legs syndrome, according to results of a late-stage clinical trial announced Friday.

The drug maker said Lyrica (pregabalin) produced statistically significant improvements in patients with RLS compared with placebo and pramipexole after 12 weeks of treatment. In the phase-3 study, A0081186, 300 mg of Lyrica, 0.25 mg of pramipexole, 0.5 mg of pramipexole or placebo was given to patients on a daily basis.

RLS is a neurological condition that causes an unpleasant, irresistible urge to move the legs and sometimes other parts of the body, usually in the evening and at night, resulting in difficulty falling or staying asleep.


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The Online Pharmacy Safety Act of 2011 introduced in Senate, endorsed by NACDS

BY Allison Cerra

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A new bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate seeks to protect consumers from Internet drug sellers posing as legitimate pharmacies.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif; and Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., introduced The Online Pharmacy Safety Act of 2011 on Thursday, which "targets fraud associated with illegitimate online drug sellers, particularly those who sell counterfeit drugs, provide drugs without a prescription or take money without providing anything in return." The bill also would require the Food and Drug Administration to establish a registry of legitimate online pharmacy websites.

“Consumers deserve access to safe, legitimate online pharmacies,” Feinstein said. “If you need to order your prescriptions online, you should be assured you are getting the real medication — not contaminated ingredients or even the wrong ingredients. This bill will put a stop to fraudulent websites that sell illegal or counterfeit drugs or take advantage of consumers.”

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores announced it endorsed the legislation, noting that research has found that 1-in-6 Americans — or more than 36 million consumers — has purchased prescription medication online without a valid prescription.

“The problem is exacerbated because these rogue sites purposely masquerade as legitimate pharmacies, duping innocent Americans into purchasing unsafe or fake medicine. As a result, Americans’ health is put at risk and the costs to the nation’s healthcare system rise dramatically,” the letter stated. “Your legislation will protect Americans against this growing threat by ensuring they have the resources they need to access safe and legitimate online pharmacies.”

Click here to view the letter.

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