Praising senator, pharmacy groups plead for patient choice in Tricare legislation
ALEXANDRIA, Va. Speaking with one voice, the nation’s largest chain and independent pharmacy groups gave a thumbs-up Monday to recent efforts by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., to preserve the right of military members and their dependents to obtain their prescriptions through a retail pharmacy without penalty.
The message of support came from the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association. The two organizations co-authored a letter thanking Lautenberg for his continued leadership in congressional efforts to protect Tricare beneficiaries’ access to retail pharmacies.
The joint letter applauded the New Jersey Democrat for offering a Sense of Congress amendment expressing the Senate’s support for beneficiary choice in the military health program, which covers some 9 million members of the military and their families. Lautenberg has been a leading voice in Congress for legislation that would ensure Tricare beneficiaries do not face increased cost-sharing if they choose to fill their prescriptions and/or obtain other professional health services at a retail pharmacy, rather than at a base pharmacy or through mail order.
“We believe the choice of where to obtain prescription medications is best left to Tricare beneficiaries,” stated the letter, jointly signed by NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson and NCPA acting EVP and CEO Douglas Hoey.
ATricare co-payment freeze provision already passed the House of Representatives under the leadership of House Armed Service Committee chairman Ike Skelton, D-Mo., and ranking member Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif. That measure prohibited a pharmacy co-pay increase. Members of the Senate are slated to debate their version of the Defense Authorization bill, which includes funding for Tricare, but the legislation likely won’t be taken up until after the November elections.
“As the Defense authorization moves towards final enactment, we will be seeking language specifically prohibiting co-pay increases to best protect beneficiaries’ access to their retail pharmacies,” noted NACDS and NCPA in their letter.
Pharmacies should get out of tobacco-selling, into smoking-cessation game
WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT The news that San Francisco’s board of supervisors gave preliminary approval to ban tobacco sales at all retailers that operate pharmacies, including mass merchants and grocers, is a step in the right direction, because if drug stores are going to be banned from selling them, then all retail pharmacy outlets should be banned. However, there’s an even bigger picture to consider.
(THE NEWS: Report: San Francisco supervisors OK tobacco sales ban at pharmacies. For the full story, click here)
As many dollars as pharmacy retailers made selling cigarettes, there is much more to be gained in medication therapy management, and there is a significant opportunity for retail pharmacy to have a greater stake in the future of health care.
Cigarette smoking has been identified as the most important source of preventable disease, illness and death worldwide, according to the American Lung Association. Smoking-related diseases claim an estimated 443,000 American lives each year, including those affected indirectly by "secondhand" smoke.
Furthermore, smoking-related healthcare expenditures are a major drain on the U.S. healthcare system. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking cost the United States more than $193 billion in 2004, including $97 billion in lost productivity and $96 billion in direct healthcare expenditures, or an average of $4,260 per adult smoker.
Clearly, there’s a positive role that pharmacists can play in smoking cessation. To further support this, a recently published study on the "effect of a pharmacist-managed smoking-cessation clinic on quit rates" found that pharmacists can play a vital role in smoking cessation, especially in a group setting, as they can reach more people within the same time frame.
The study found that at three months and six months, 47.6% and 52.4% of patients reported being smoke-free, respectively. The study was conducted on patients that had participated in the pharmacist-managed Smoking Cessation Group Clinic at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Participants received structured group counseling on various topics associated with cessation.
It also should be noted that in August, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced that Medicare coverage for seniors trying to quit smoking was expanded to include everyone on Medicare.
Amgen recalls certain lots of Epogen, Procrit
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. Several lots of two drugs used to treat anemia are being recalled due to possible contamination.
Amgen said Friday that it was voluntarily recalling certain lots of Epogen and Procrit (epoetin alfa) from distributors, wholesalers, healthcare providers and pharmacies as a precaution due to the possible presence of extremely thin and barely visible glass flakes known as lamellae that result from an interaction between the drugs and the glass vials used to store them.
The drugs are used to treat anemia resulting from chemotherapy, kidney failure and HIV therapy.