PHARMACY

Pfizer sees first-quarter earnings fall

BY Drew Buono

NEW YORK Pfizer reported that its earnings for its first quarter fell by over half a billion dollars to $2.8 billion from $3.4 billion in the first quarter of 2007, according to published reports.

The company had a decrease in sales of $777 million for its cholesterol pill Lipitor and its blood pressure treatment Norvasc due to competition from generics. Lipitor’s sales fell from $3.36 billion to $3.14 billion. The cholesterol drug is Pfizer’s key revenue driver and will lose patent protection in 2010, opening the floodgates for less-expensive generic versions.

The anti-smoking drug Chantix contributed to the company revenue, as it rose 71 percent to $277 million. The drug has brought concerns on psychiatric side problems, as the company said patients taking Chantix committed or attempted suicide.

Other products such as Lyrica, a treatment for fibromyalgia rose 47 percent to $582 million, while the painkiller Celebrex rose 2 percent to $611 million.

Pfizer said cost-cutting measures partially offset revenue declines, and the company is on track to reduce costs by $1.5 billion to $2 billion by the end of 2008. The measures, which included cutting 11,000 jobs and closing eight facilities in 2007, are part of an effort to shore up the company’s financial position as it faces more costly drug patent expirations.

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Proximity, price outweigh technology in consumers’ choice of pharmacies

BY Jim Frederick

DURHAM, N.C. Fully one in three Americans who take prescription medicines have experienced a prescription error or say they know someone who has, a new consumer survey finds.

 The just-released Parata Prescription Safety 2008 poll appears to bolster the case for pharmacy technology vendors, who assert that robotic dispensing technology and other pharmacy technology can greatly reduce medication errors.

More than half of American adults take at least one prescription daily, according to the Parata survey and other reseaerch. However, researchers argue in a report on the results released Thursday, “increased prescription use has not been accompanied by increased consumer vigilance.”

Instead, consumers “readily admit to choosing their pharmacies for speed and convenience, rather than for safe prescription practices” the company reported. Half of those polled cited “proximity to work or home” as the top reason for choosing one pharmacy over another.

The second most cited reason for choosing a particular pharmacy is price, cited by 23 percent of respondents, Parata reported. “Interestingly, a pharmacy’s use of “automated dispensing equipment,” a proven strategy for reducing prescription errors, ranked last in importance, cited by just 2 percent of respondents,” pollsters noted.

The vast majority of prescription-takers [80 percent] spend less than two minutes speaking to their pharmacists when they pick up their medications, according to Parata, and almost half [45 percent] don’t talk to them at all. And while 91 percent of consumers asked could name the doctors who wrote their last prescriptions, only 36 percent could name the pharmacists who filled them, the survey found.

Nevertheless, far more respondents ranked pharmacists as principally responsible for ensuring their prescriptions are accurate than those who said their doctors mostly filled that role, by a margin of 49 percent to 15 percent for doctors.

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Feds’ new view of multisource drugs draws opposition from NACDS, NCPA

BY Jim Frederick

ALEXANDRIA, Va. The National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association today asked the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to withdraw a new and potentially damaging definition of “multiple source drug,” a definition both pharmacy groups say could scramble the prescription payment system for Medicaid and cut further into reimbursements to pharmacies.

The revised definition comes in the form of an interim final rule adopted by CMS. In comments submitted to CMS today, NACDS president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson and NCPA executive vice president Bruce Roberts called attention to two critical legal concerns with the new way the Bush administration is defining multisourced medications.

“The first concern is that the rule was not subject to the normal notice and comment rulemaking process in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act, which requires public notice and a comment period prior to most rule changes,” the two leaders noted.

The second sticking point is more serious. Anderson and Roberts said the definition of multiple source drugs “is critical for pharmacies because CMS uses Federal Upper Limits (FULs) to cap Medicaid reimbursement to pharmacies that dispense them.”

That said, they told CMS, “the Social Security Act provides that a drug is not a multiple source drug unless two or more equivalent drug products are ‘sold or marketed in the State;’ that is, whether particular drug products are generally available to the public through retail pharmacies in each state. CMS did not comply with this standard in revising the rule.

“While we appreciate CMS’ efforts to redefine ‘multiple source drug’, it is critical that the revisions meet all guidelines and compliance requirements,” said Anderson and Roberts. “Pharmacies are at risk of improper and inadequate Medicaid reimbursements due to the AMP [average manufacturer’s price] rule [for multi-sourced drugs] and the revised definition. As a result, those who will suffer the greatest burden will be the patients and the states.”

The full comments are posted here.

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