PHARMACY

President Bush signs bill for delay of tamper-resistant prescriptions

BY Adam Kraemer

ALEXANDRIA, Va. The National Association of Chain Drug Stores thanked President Bush on Monday for his quick action in signing a bill which would extend the implementation date requiring all Medicaid prescriptions to be written on tamper-resistant prescription paper, originally set at Oct. 1.

In a communication to the White House last week, Steve Anderson, NACDS president and chief executive officer, stated, “Without the delay, we anticipate that Medicaid patients will not receive the medications they need in a timely fashion. Disruptions in medication therapy result in human costs and more costly downstream treatments that negatively affect the entire health care system.”

The six-month delay was included as part of H.R. 3668, which also extends certain health care programs that would have expired on the same date.

A provision tucked into an Iraq war spending bill (Public Law 110-28), finalized on May 25, required doctors and other prescribers to write prescriptions on tamper-resistant prescription pads for Medicaid patients beginning October 1, 2007.

NACDS led the charge in seeking a delay of the tamper-resistant requirement, arguing that four months was not enough time for regulators, doctors, pharmacists and prescription pad manufacturers across the country to comply with such a widespread change. With 300 million Medicaid prescriptions filled annually, this requirement would have led to serious disruptions in patient care.

“We cannot express our thanks to President Bush enough for helping low-income Americans continue to receive their prescription medications,” said Anderson. “If the bill was not enacted by today—Oct. 1—the nation’s community pharmacists would have had to choose between serving their patients and being reimbursed for the Medicaid prescriptions they fill—a decision no pharmacist should have to face.”

This issue was an urgent priority for NACDS. However, the organization points out that community pharmacy still faces a much larger threat—a new benchmark, Average Manufacturer Price, that will cut Medicaid pharmacy reimbursements by over $8 billion.

“This six-month delay is crucial to protecting patient access to medications, and it’s an important victory for community pharmacy,” said Anderson. “But we can’t rest. We must continue fighting to ensure that reimbursement cuts do not threaten the ability of pharmacists to serve low-income patients.”

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PHARMACY

Senate approves equal pharmacy access for military and their families

BY Allison Cerra

ALEXANDRIA, Va. The National Association of Chain Drug Stores issued a letter to a New Jersey senator yesterday for his support in their fight to prevent an increase in co-payments for military beneficiaries.

Senator Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., was thanked for sponsoring an amendment to prohibit increased co-payments to those beneficiaries using retail pharmacies in the TRICARE health benefits program. TRICARE is the military health program that provides care to over 9 million uniformed personnel, their families and retired military worldwide.

“Keeping equal access to chain community pharmacy for our U.S. military and their families is a priority for NACDS,” stated NACDS President and chief executive officer, Steve Anderson, “We applaud Senator Lautenberg’s leadership in introducing the amendment, which shows great support for our nation’s military. We look forward to continuing to work with the Senator and his colleagues to pass H.R. 1585, and continue to develop policy solutions that maximize competition and protect choice for TRICARE beneficiaries.”

The amendment was subsequently adopted as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2008 (H.R. 1585), which is currently being debated in the Senate. The amendment will ensure that TRICARE patients would not be inclined to use mail order rather than local retail pharmacies because of co-payment increase.

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PHARMACY

Senate passes bill for tamper-resistant prescription delay

BY Jim Frederick

WASHINGTON Now, it’s up to the White House.

Pharmacy leaders breathed a cautious sigh of relief today with passage in the U.S. Senate last night of a bill that would delay for six months a looming requirement that all Medicaid prescriptions to be written on tamper-resistant prescription paper. But with no time left to lose before the Oct. 1 deadline originally imposed by Congress for implementation of the new prescription pad rule, leaders at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association immediately set their sights on convincing President Bush to sign the measure into law before Monday.

Following passage in the House of a companion measure, the Senate on Thursday night approved H.R. 3668, extending several health care programs set to expire Oct. 1. Of critical interest to pharmacy and physician groups, it also allows for a six-month delay in the tamper-proof mandate to give both professions—and state Medicaid administrators nationwide—a chance to obtain the needed pads and adapt to the new requirement.

The original mandate was written into an Iraq war funding bill with little notice, requiring all Medicaid prescriptions to be written on special tamper-resistant pads beginning Oct. 1. The rapidly approaching deadline raised alarm bells among dozens of pharmacy, physician and patient advocacy groups in recent weeks, and spawned an increasingly intense lobbying campaign to turn aside the regulation.

“Community pharmacists are aware of the problems associated across the country with Medicaid fraud,” said Bruce Roberts, executive vice president and chief executive officer of NCPA. “With a stroke of the President’s pen, the health care community will have adequate lead time to make the use of tamper-resistant pads a reality. I urge President Bush to move swiftly to approve this delay before the October 1st effective date of the law.”

NACDS president and chief executive officer Steven Anderson praised the bipartisan leadership of Ohio Senators George Voinovich, a Republican, and Democrat Sherrod Brown, for addressing the tamper-resistant requirement in a stand-alone bill earlier this week—a bill that was superseded by the extension legislation passed last night. “The determined efforts of Senator Brown, Senator Voinovich, as well as Senate Leadership, were crucial to achieving passage of this six-month delay.

“We greatly appreciate their support for community pharmacy and the Medicaid patients we serve,” Anderson said. “We also applaud the support of Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and ranking member Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who supported inclusion of the delay in the final health extenders legislation.”

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