PHARMACY

Ohio Dept. of Health, retail pharmacies join forces to combat H1N1

BY Michael Johnsen

COLUMBUS, Ohio The Ohio Department of Health on Wednesday announced a public-private partnership with four retail pharmacy chains — Giant Eagle, Kroger, Meijer and Walgreens — to ensure sufficient antiviral medications are available this flu season.

“I’m pleased these retailers have agreed to join us in our effort to help Ohioans as the H1N1 virus continues to cause widespread illness,” stated Alvin Jackson, ODH director. “By putting these plans in place, we can ensure Ohioans will have better access to antiviral medications to treat H1N1 infections even when supplies are limited.”

Ohio is distributing medication from the state stockpile to these chains as needed to address any shortages in the commercial marketplace. The four pharmacies have stores in 70 of Ohio’s 88 counties. In counties where there is no retail presence, Ohio Department of Health will continue to work with local health departments.

In a separate announcement, government health officials announced Friday that vaccines for H1N1 will be available by Dec. 14 to any resident of Ohio who wants them.

 

Any resident of the state can get the vaccine through private physicians, government-approved health centers and local health departments as long as it is available, the state department of health said.

The state government said that it would continue focusing vaccination efforts on high-risk groups, including healthcare workers, pregnant women, people ages 6 months to 24 years, people living with or caring for children younger than 6 months and adults with chronic health conditions. All residents of the state will be able to obtain the vaccine starting Monday, regardless of whether they belong to high-risk groups. Nearly 2.3 million doses of the vaccine are available in the state.

“We continue to urge high-risk Ohioans to seek H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccines,” ODH director Alvin Jackson, M.D said.

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Mylan settles with Wyeth over antidepressant

BY Alaric DeArment

PITTSBURGH Mylan has received a license to manufacture its generic version of a drug used to treat major depressive disorder, the generic drug maker announced Tuesday.

Mylan said it received a non-exclusive license for venlafaxine hydrochloride extended-release capsules in the 37.5-mg, 75-mg and 150-mg strengths as part of a settlement with Wyeth, recently acquired by Pfizer.

The drug is a generic version of Wyeth’s Effexor XR, which had sales of about $2.9 billion during the 12-month period ended Sept. 30, according to IMS Health. Under the agreement, Mylan will be allowed to launch the drug on June 1, 2011.

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Retail lobbyists fret over public option

BY Jim Frederick

ARLINGTON, Va. Retail business leaders are fretting over provisions in the health-reform package now being hotly debated in the Senate, fearing the measure could raise their operating costs and drive many beneficiaries from the plans they know and like.

In a letter sent Tuesday to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., the Retail Industry Leaders Association voiced alarm that healthcare-reform legislation could exacerbate many of the economic and health coverage problems Congress and the White House are trying to confront. The group asked Reid to consider changing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to ease its impact on employers and their health plan members.

Among RILA’s chief concerns: that the bill, if passed as written, “would shift costs on to employers to pay for a public plan, reduce benefit design flexibility and innovation, [and] force employers to enroll new employees within 30 days of hire.” The Senate measure, added the group’s SVP government affairs, John Emling, “could undermine economic recovery, cost more jobs for the retail industry and drive employees from the health care plans they currently know and like.”

The retail industry lobby is particularly leery of the bill’s provision to establish a public health plan option. Reid and other Democrats – along with the Obama Administration – are advancing the public option as a way to compete with private insurers in order to hold down health insurance premiums and other out-of-pocket costs, and to give consumers another choice in the insurance market. But RILA asserts the plan is anathema to employers.

“No federal or state public health plan can operate as a fair competitor with the private market because of the government’s distinct advantage as both regulator and provider of care,” Emling, told Reid. “Further, the medical provider payment rates prescribed in this legislation are lower than market value and, much like we have seen with Medicare and Medicaid will force providers to increase rates on private market plans.

“These two forces combined could ultimately eradicate the employer-based system of health benefits that has proven to reduce systemic costs and ensure quality, affordable care for millions of Americans,” Emling warned.

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