PHARMACY

Pharmacy groups send letter to Senate supporting Fair Medicaid Drug Payment Act

BY Adam Kraemer

WASHINGTON A coalition of organizations, including the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association, sent a letter to all members of the Senate on Friday to urge the passage of the Fair Medicaid Drug Payment Act (S. 1951), sponsored by Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont.

“The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 and implementing regulations by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services made severe cuts to Medicaid pharmacy reimbursement for generic drugs. These cuts take full effect in January 2008, and will reduce payments to pharmacies by more than $8 billion over the next five years,” the letter said. “In fact, these cuts are so drastic that both the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office agree they will result in below-cost reimbursement for pharmacies on many commonly dispensed generic drugs.”

Other organizations signing the letter included the Food Marketing Institute, the American Pharmacists Association, the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, the Healthcare Distribution Management Association, the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations, and the Generic Pharmaceutical Association.

Among its provisions, Sen. Baucus’ proposal, the letter states, will best define the reimbursement benchmark of average manufacturer price. Under CMS’ current definition, AMP inappropriately includes discounts and rebates that are not available to retail pharmacies. 

“No health care provider should be expected to participate in a health care program at below cost reimbursement,” the letter stated. “The potentially devastating effects on pharmacy access should be obvious. … This is the only action that will ensure that pharmacies are fairly reimbursed for the services and critical medications they provide and that Medicaid beneficiaries continue to enjoy access to their local pharmacies.”

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Millenium takes a long-term view on expansion

BY Allison Cerra

BOSTON Biotechnology company Millennium Pharmaceuticals said that it has taken a less intense approach to bidding for experimental drugs, Reuters reported.

Millennium, which makes cancer drug Velcade, said Thursday that although its shareholders keep it on a longer leash, it will not destroy its focus on the value of the company, rather than trying to expand when it is impossible or unnecessary. “One of our strategies is to look outside to accelerate growth,” said Deborah Dunsire, Millennium’s chief executive, at the Reuters Health Summit in New York. “But our larger shareholders want us to stay religiously focused on being able to return value after we’ve paid for the assets.”

Last year’s bidding war with fellow biotechnology company Genzyme Corp. caused Millennium to intently concentrate on other things, including its pipeline of experimental products and its partnerships.

Meanwhile, Dunsire said the company has talked to several potential partners about MLN1202, its experimental antibody designed to reduce a protein that evidence suggests is related to coronary artery disease. While there no solid proof that elevated C-reactive protein directly contributes to an increased risk of heart disease, Dunsire said, the Food and Drug Administration would not approve the drug just because it reduces the protein.

Other companies involved in developing drugs for cardiovascular disease, however, could find it a very valuable tool and potentially a product in its own right. “We have taken this forward to determine whether it is an interesting avenue to explore,” Dunsire told Reuters.

For now, the company is expanding sales of Velcade, which is being tested in multiple combinations to determine its function when pooled with other drugs, Dunsire said. “We’re very optimistic we’ll get good growth in 2008. We’ve never looked at this as a zero-sum game.”

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J&J combats slow sales with creation of three units

BY Drew Buono

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. Johnson & Johnson will create three new units to combat its recent lagging sales, according to the Associated Press.

The three new units are: an office of strategy and growth to identify new opportunities; a surgical care group to focus on technology and services to improve patient care; and a comprehensive care group which will treat chronic and pervasive conditions. The office of strategy and growth is one of they key areas, as the company reported a decline in profit recently.

Nicholas Valeriani, the worldwide chairman for medical devices and diagnostics will lead the strategy and growth office. Sherilyn McCoy, the chairwoman for Ethicon, a medical device company, will be the worldwide chairwoman of surgical care and will become a member of the executive committee. Donald Casey, group chairman for the diabetes franchise, will become worldwide chairman of the comprehensive care unit and will join the executive committee.

“We have the know-how across our pharmaceutical, biologics, devices, diagnostics and consumer businesses to bring completely new solutions to market,” chief executive William Weldon said in a statement.

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