PHARMACY

Pharmacy leaders appeal to Senate panel

BY Jim Frederick

ALEXANDRIA, Va. Seeking a strong role for community pharmacy in a reorganized healthcare system, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association made a direct appeal to the powerful leaders of the Senate Finance Committee this week.

On Monday, the committee held its first roundtable on healthcare reform, “Reforming America’s healthcare delivery system.” Under discussion were approaches that could lead to a more cost-effective, responsive and sustainable healthcare system, including the concept of a “medical home” for each patient, overseen by a local health professional, such as a general practice physician, nurse practitioner or pharmacist responsible for overseeing a patient’s medical progress and coordinating his or her care within the health network.

Among other topics, Finance Committee members are mulling the role pharmacists can play in improving patients’ medication adherence and health outcomes.

In response, NACDS president and CEO Steven Anderson and Bruce Roberts, EVP and CEO of NCPA, sent a jointly-authored letter to the top Democrat and Republican on the committee, Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa. They pointed out the key role pharmacists already play in prevention and health and urged the lawmakers to include pharmacists in the medical home concept.

“As highly accessible health providers with the greatest expertise in medication therapy, community pharmacists are uniquely situated to coordinate a critical aspect of modern patient care – medication therapy. For this reason, NACDS and NCPA both advocate for an expanded role for pharmacists in a ‘medical home’ approach to healthcare reform,” Anderson and Roberts wrote.

Pointing out the high costs of non-adherence in both patients’ health and acute-care bills, the two pharmacy leaders urged Baucus and Grassley to include pharmacists in any discussion of health reform.

“With the goal of improving health outcomes and reducing costs, NACDS and NCPA have targeted improving medication adherence in their priorities for healthcare reform,” they noted. “We support expansions to Medicare Part D medication therapy management programs announced recently by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. We also support targeted medication reviews for Part D beneficiaries experiencing transitions in care, such a hospital discharge.”

In addition, wrote Anderson and Roberts, “We believe that community pharmacists, working in partnership with physicians and other health providers, can greatly improve patient adherence to medication therapy. This commonsense approach would reduce higher-cost medical interventions, such as emergency department visits and catastrophic care, and the preventable human costs that impact patients and those who care for them.”

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MinuteClinic becomes participating provider with health care insurer

BY Antoinette Alexander

MINNEAPOLIS CVS Caremark’s MinuteClinic business has become a participating provider with Highmark, the largest healthcare insurer in Pennsylvania based on membership.

Highmark, which is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, serves 4.8 million people through the company’s healthcare benefits business.

Through the partnership, members of Highmark’s health plans now have access to MinuteClinic locations in the Pittsburgh market.

“This is an important development in the growth of our business in western Pennsylvania as we expand access to care to millions of new customers,” stated Chip Phillips, MinuteClinic president. “By offering high quality treatment in a convenient setting, we can work with Highmark to help reduce healthcare insurance expenses for its members as well as time spent away from members’ families and the workplace.”

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Bristol-Myers Squibb reports positive financial performance

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK In spite of the global economic downturn and a prediction from IMS Health global pharmaceutical sales growth will decline by as much as 3.5% this year, drug maker Bristol-Myers Squibb reported good financial performance and success in two strategic initiatives in its first quarter 2009 financial report Tuesday.

Net sales were $5.02 billion, a 3% increase over $4.9 billion in first quarter 2008, or 8% when excluding the affect of foreign exchange rates. Bristol also announced earlier this month that it would extend its development and commercialization deal with Otsuka Pharmaceutical for the bipolar disorder and schizophrenia drug Abilify (aripiprazole) from November 2012 to April 2015, and the two companies would collaborate on two cancer drugs, Sprycel (dasatinib) and Ixempra (ixabepilone).

The Food and Drug Administration’s Endocrinologic and Metabolic Drugs Advisory Committee determined by a vote of 10 to 2 that data submitted with the regulatory application that Bristol filed with AstraZeneca for the Type 2 diabetes drug Onglyza (saxagliptin) were sufficient to rule out unacceptable risks to cardiovascular health while unanimously recommending a post-marketing trial to confirm the data.

The HIV drug Reyataz (atazanavir sulfate) and the hepatitis B drug Baraclude (entecavir) demonstrated consistent growth, while sales of the cancer drug Erbitux (cetuximab) declined by 12% compared with first quarter 2008.

“Our operating performance was excellent at both the top and bottom lines,” Bristol chairman and CEO James Cornelius stated. “We made outstanding strategic progress, taking decisive actions that shift our focus toward future growth as a biopharma leader.”

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