PHARMACY

Pharmacy-friendly TRICARE bill moves forward with passage of equal access provisions in Senate

BY Jim Frederick

WASHINGTON Two days after its passage in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate has voted to approve language in the Fiscal Year 2008 National Defense Authorization Act that pharmacy leaders consider critical to their ability to participate in the government’s massive TRICARE military health program.

The bill contains two key provisions that address the TRICARE prescription drug benefit for military beneficiaries. Among them: an extension of the current freeze on increases to retail pharmacy co-payments, so that patients covered by the military health plan won’t be penalized for filling their prescriptions at a community pharmacy rather than through a mail-order facility. The bill also affirms the right of the Department of Defense to negotiate with drug manufacturers for federal pricing discounts that would apply to prescriptions filled at retail pharmacies, as well as those that currently apply to drugs filled at military bases or by mail order facilities.

Citing the “extensive grassroots and lobbying campaign” his organization conducted to ensure those elements were included in the defense spending bill, NACDS president and chief executive officer Steven Anderson called the Senate’s approval of the provisions “a victory for community pharmacy and the military patients we serve.

“NACDS applauds the House and Senate for their action to preserve access to retail pharmacies in the TRICARE program,” he said. “Our nation’s soldiers, military retirees, and their families should have the freedom to choose where they obtain prescription medications, and this legislation will help protect that freedom.

“We urge President Bush to sign this legislation promptly so that it can be enacted into law,” Anderson added.

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FDA approves Teva’s generic Trileptal

BY Drew Buono

The Food and Drug Administration has granted final approval to Teva for its application to market a generic version of Trileptal, by Novartis, for the treatment of epilepsy.

The generic, oxcarbazepine, will be available in 150, 300 and 600 mg tablets. Teva will begin shipping the drug in the near future.

Teva is currently involved in patent litigation concerning this product in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. A trial date has not been set.

The brand product had annual sales of approximately $690 million in the United States for the twelve months ended Sept. 30, 2007, based on IMS sales data.

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Biogen’s lack of buyer interest triggers stock price dive

BY Drew Buono

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. Biogen has reported that after two months of looking for a potential buyer, it has turned up no serious offers, which led to a 27 percent drop in the company’s shares, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Biogen said in a statement that it “did not receive any definitive offers to purchase the company” and would abandon exploration of a sale. Within a few minutes of the announcement, Biogen lost nine months of increasing business by buyout rumors.

Pharmaceutical firms may have been discouraged by Biogen’s high price—its market value had grown to $25 billion after the company announced its intention to sell. Last month, Sanofi-Aventis’ chief executive called Biogen’s price “a little high.”

Biogen has three main drugs on the market—Avonex and Tysabri for multiple sclerosis and Rituxan for cancer and rheumatoid arthritis. Some analysts said uncertainties about the future of the drugs were too great for buyers. Tysabri has been linked to a rare brain disorder, prompting close regulatory scrutiny.

The stock price fell from $75.88 to $55.50 on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

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