PHARMACY

RA patients may benefit from weekly injection of Orencia, study finds

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK Patients with rheumatoid arthritis derive about as much benefit from a weekly injection of a biotech drug made by Bristol-Myers Squibb for the disease as they do from receiving it via IV on a monthly basis, according to late-stage clinical trial data released Monday.

Bristol announced results of a phase-3 study showing that patients with moderate to severe RA receiving a weekly injection under the skin of Orencia (abatacept) showed similar improvements to those receiving the IV. Results of the study will be presented this week at the American College of Rheumatology’s annual scientific meeting in Atlanta.

The study included 1,457 patients who had moderate to severe RA and did not respond adequately to the drug methotrexate. Patients were placed at random in groups that received either weekly injections of Orencia with a single IV loading dose or IV Orencia with methotrexate. After six months, 69.8% of those receiving injections and 65% of those on IV were showing improvements.

“These findings are significant because they demonstrate that subcutaneous Orencia may provide an additional administration option for patients and physicians,” lead study author and Stanford University medical professor Mark Genovese said. “It is important for patients and physicians to have treatment options when managing RA.”

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NACDS brushes up new members of Congress on importance of community pharmacy to U.S. health care

BY Jim Frederick

ALEXANDRIA, Va. In a clear message to the newly elected lawmakers that pharmacies can be utilized even more effectively to help reduce healthcare costs and improve healthcare quality, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores sent a pharmacy briefing letter Friday to each of the new lawmakers.

 

“NACDS is highly engaged on issues that impact pharmacy and its patients. As the face of neighborhood healthcare, pharmacy is a convenient, accessible healthcare provider, with locations in every congressional district across the United States,” said NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson. 

 

In the letter, NACDS detailed ways in which “pharmacies are vital to healthcare delivery in the United States and can be utilized even more effectively to help reduce healthcare costs and improve healthcare quality.” The briefing letter invited the new members of Congress to tour pharmacies in their home states to get a firsthand look at the value of community pharmacy, and offered assistance through NACDS’ RxIMPACT program. It also included a copy of NACDS’ “Pharmacies: Improving Health, Reducing Costs,” which explains the role of pharmacy in greater detail.

“NACDS looks forward to working with the newly elected lawmakers in the 112th Congress to achieve pro-patient, pro-pharmacy policies,” Anderson said.

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Affordable Care Act expected to deliver big savings to Medicare recipients

BY Antoinette Alexander

WASHINGTON Under the Affordable Care Act, the average savings for those enrolled in traditional Medicare is expected to amount to more than $3,500 over the next 10 years — and will be even higher for seniors and people with diabetes who have high drug costs — according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

 

"The Affordable Care Act makes Medicare stronger and reduces the burden of healthcare costs on some of our most vulnerable citizens," stated HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "The law improves benefits for seniors and people with beneficiaries who rely on Medicare, and ensures that Medicare will be there for current and future generations by extending the life of the Medicare Trust Fund. These benefits and savings are only possible with the continued implementation of the Affordable Care Act."

 

While the average savings is pegged at more than $3,500 over the next 10 years, the savings will be even higher — as much as $12,300 over the next 10 years — for seniors and people with disabilities who have high prescription drug costs.

The analysis, released by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, shows that the Affordable Care Act helps lower costs for those on Medicare by slowing the growth of cost-sharing in Medicare.

Closing the Part D coverage gap known as the "doughnut hole" will produce the greatest cost savings. Already, more than 1.8 million seniors and people with disabilities who have reached the doughnut hole in 2010 received a one-time $250 rebate check, and checks will continue to be distributed to those who enter the doughnut hole this year. Next year, people in the doughnut hole will receive 50% discounts on covered brand-name Part D prescription drugs. Also starting next year, seniors and people with disabilities on Medicare will have access to a number of recommended preventive services and annual wellness visits at no additional cost.

Although all seniors and people with disabilities in Medicare are likely to see savings, the savings will be greatest for those with costly medical conditions or high prescription drug costs. Total savings per beneficiary enrolled in traditional Medicare are estimated to be $86 in 2011, rising to $649 in 2020. For a beneficiary with spending in the doughnut hole, estimated savings increased from $553 in 2011 to $2,217 in 2020.

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