PHARMACY

Paperless prescribing hits key milestone

BY Jim Frederick

ALEXANDRIA, Va. The long campaign by pharmacy vendors, technology vendors and health reform advocates to move the nation’s doctors from paper to electronic prescribing has reached a key milestone: the conversion of 100,000 physicians to the new method of transmitting prescriptions directly to dispensing pharmacies.

Surescripts, which operates the country’s largest national e-prescribing network, announced Wednesday that more than 100,000 prescribers are now routing prescriptions electronically in the United States. “What’s more, the use of three critical components of e-prescribing — electronic prescription benefit, history and routing — jumped 61% in the first quarter of 2009,” Surescripts revealed.

That resulted in more than 134 million e-prescribing messages being exchanged among prescribers, payers and pharmacies, according to the company.

“In the past two years, the United States has gone from 19,000 to 103,000 prescribers routing prescriptions electronically — punctuated by 39% sequential growth in prescriber adoption in the first quarter of this year,” said Harry Totonis, newly elected president and CEO of Surescripts. “The past two years have also witnessed a sevenfold increase in the use of e-prescribing.”

Those advances aren’t enough, Totonis added. “While this growth shows clear evidence that the steps taken by policymakers, prescribers, payers, pharmacies and others are having a positive impact,” he said, “swift and specific action is required for the U.S. to achieve mainstream adoption and use of e-prescribing.”

The advances described by Surescripts are reported in the annual National Progress Report on E-Prescribing, released today. Among the report’s key findings:

  • By the end of 2008, 74,000 doctors were actively prescribing electronically, vs. 36,000 at the end of 2007 and 16,000 in 2006.
  • Prescriber use of benefit information and prescription history grew from 37 million in 2007 to 78 million in 2008 and from 6 million in 2007 to 16 million in 2008, respectively.
  • Prescriptions routed electronically more than doubled from 29 million in 2007 to 68 million in 2008.
  • By the end of 2008, increased participation by payers in e-prescribing enabled access to prescription benefit and history information for 65% of patients in the U.S.

Seven states are connected to the Surescripts network through their pharmacy benefit managers PBMs to deliver prescription information for fee-for-service Medicaid patients.At the end of 2008, approximately 76% of community pharmacies and six of the largest mail-order pharmacies in the U.S. were connected for prescription routing, Surescripts announced.

For a downloadable copy of the National Progress Report on E-Prescribing, go to www.surescripts.com/report.

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Merck & Co. reports 8% Q1 worldwide sales drop

BY Alaric DeArment

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. Merck & Co. said its merger with Schering-Plough was “progressing as planned” in its first quarter 2009 financial report Tuesday.

That news coincided with worldwide sales of $5.4 billion, an 8% decrease from the same period last year, including a 3% decrease due to foreign exchange rates, reduced by a further 3% due to the loss of market exclusivity for the osteoporosis drug Fosamax (alendronate sodium). Net income for the quarter was $1.425 billion, compared with $3.3 billion in first quarter 2008.

The company reported augmenting its pipeline by signing agreements with Insmed, Cardiome, Santen, Medarex and Massachusetts Biologic Labs, but delayed filing for regulatory approval of the investigational migraine drug telcagepant.

“Our first-quarter results in part reflect the impact of the difficult global economy on patients, providers and payers, but we remain on track to meet our full-year earnings guidance,” president and CEO Richard Clark stated. “We believe our planned merger with Schering-Plough will accelerate Merck’s transformation into a global healthcare leader, built for sustainable growth and success.”

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N.Y. seeks to ban cigarettes at pharmacies

BY Alaric DeArment

ALBANY, N.Y. Smokers in New York state soon may find a narrower range of sources of their habit.

A bill introduced in the state’s legislature would ban the sale of tobacco at retail pharmacies and stores that operate pharmacies, including supermarkets and mass merchandisers.

The bill follows similar laws enacted in San Francisco and Boston, but would be the first statewide bill.

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