Pharmacy-endorsed Medicare bill snags in Senate despite House action
WASHINGTON Despite pleas from chain and independent pharmacy groups and the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, the U.S. Senate failed last night to push forward a landmark bill that would provide relief to retail pharmacies on issues ranging from Medicaid reimbursement cuts to faster Medicare prescription payments.
By a vote of 58-40, the Senate failed to achieve cloture on a bill to overhaul elements of Medicare and Medicaid, despite its passage by an overwhelming margin earlier this week in the House of Representatives. Pharmacy leaders are hoping lawmakers can quickly resolve the deadlock and pass the bill in coming weeks, but chances for quick passage appear cloudy.
“We are disappointed with last night’s vote and thank all senators who voted for the bill, which included provisions critical to community pharmacy and our patients,” said Bruce Roberts, executive vice president and chief executive officer of the National Community Pharmacists Association. “Unfortunately, our issues, which enjoy overwhelming bi-partisan support, got wrapped up in a contentious debate unrelated to pharmacy.”
Nevertheless, said Roberts, “This often happens in Washington. We look forward to working with all our friends on Capitol Hill in coming weeks to ensure that legislation protecting the public’s access to life-saving prescription drugs and related counsel becomes law.”
The bill, known as H.R. 6331 or the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008, would postpone a plan by the Bush Administration to cut Medicaid reimbursements for generic drugs until Oct. 1, 2009. It would also require prescription drug plans to speed up payments for Medicare Part D drug claims from pharmacies, by imposing a 14-day reimbursement cycle; require weekly updates of posted Medicare prescription drug prices; and postpone the rollout of Round 1 of the new competitive bidding requirement for durable medical equipment under Medicare Part B.
Another provision of the bill supported by retail pharmacy groups would require physicians to adopt electronic prescribing for prescriptions written and dispensed under Medicare Part D.
FDA issues third approvable letter for Wyeth’s bazedoxifene
WASHINGTON Wyeth Pharmaceuticals’ new drug for treating postmenopausal osteoporosis has hit another speed bump.
The Food and Drug Administration sent a third approvable letter to Wyeth for the drug bazedoxifene pending analyses about the incidence of stroke and venal thrombosis in patients who use it. The FDA made a similar request in a letter sent in December.
Merck reported that its postmenopausal osteoporosis drug Fosamax (alendronate sodium) had worldwide sales of $3.05 billion in 2007.
Longs plans drive-through windows at Hawaiian locations
NEW YORK Longs Drug Stores plans to open drive-through windows at some of its stores in Hawaii, the company announced recently.
The drugstore chain, based in Walnut Creek, Calif., will add a drive-through window to its store in Maui later this year. The new store it plans to open in Honolulu will also have a window.
Walgreens, which recently opened its first locations in Hawaii, credits itself with inventing the concept of the drugstore with a drive-through pharmacy more than 15 years ago.