HEALTH

Removing Affordable Care Act provision restricting use of FSAs for OTCs would save taxpayers money

BY Alaric DeArment

A representative and a senator, both Republicans, recently introduced legislation that would repeal restrictions on health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 that prohibit the use of HSA and FSA account dollars for the purchase of over-the-counter drugs without a prescription.

One of the sponsors of the Family Health Care Flexibility Act, Sen. Mike Johanns of Nebraska, called the restrictions "government overreach and interference." But they’re more than that: They’re simply wasteful. The whole point of healthcare reform is to expand access to health care while reducing cost, and requiring an expensive and time-consuming doctor visit to get a prescription for an OTC drug fails at both goals.

At a hearing last year, when similar legislation was introduced, Consumer Healthcare Products Association president and CEO Scott Melville said in testimony that the restrictions mean FSA participants are faced with three choices: Make a doctor’s appointment to get a prescription in order to get reimbursement; forgo 10% to 35% in savings by buying the medication without reimbursement; or forgo treatment altogether.

But Melville’s testimony also included a bigger tidbit: figures from a study by Booz & Co. indicating that OTC drugs save the country’s healthcare system $102 billion annually, with about three-quarters of that coming from reduced doctor visits.

With more than 30 million Americans expected to have healthcare coverage when the ACA takes full effect next year, the country will already face a major shortage of primary care providers. That’s what’s driving moves at state and federal levels to have pharmacists and nurse practitioners classified as healthcare providers.

But they alone can’t reduce the burden; part of that will need to come from patients being able to treat minor ailments themselves. With the Booz & Co. study reporting that 240 million people treat illnesses with OTC medicines every year, the last thing the country needs is for the 9.8 million patients whom Nielsen estimates to have used the FSA program to buy OTC drugs before the ACA provision took effect in January 2011 to have to see a doctor for a runny nose.

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Itonis Pharmaceuticals gearing up for summertime launch of anti-nausea homeopathic remedy

BY Michael Johnsen

AGUNA HILLS, Calif. — Itonis Pharmaceuticals on Thursday unveiled the company’s initial marketing plans for an over-the-counter homeopathic product that helps relieve nausea.

"Many millions of Americans will travel this year and approximately 33% of the population is susceptible to motion sickness, even in mild circumstances," noted Charles Hensley, Itonis president and known for inventing the Zicam cold remedy. "The specter of becoming nauseous on a trip continues to be a big issue for leisure travelers. Our initial marketing objective is to introduce our anti-nausea products to the traveling population by partnering with airlines, cruise ship lines, hotels and internet travel sights as well as other professionals in the travel industry."

Itonis is on target to begin full production of its anti-nausea spray with product sales set to begin by summer 2013.

“We are very excited that our new anti-nausea product will reach consumers just in time for summer vacation travels," Hensley said. "It is always a proud moment when a product cycle matures from the design phase and advances to the point of actual consumer use."

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Reese launches first product under new ‘Old School’ brand

BY Michael Johnsen

CLEVELAND — Reese Pharmaceutical on Thursday announced the development of its Old School brand, which will feature products that have been used for generations. The first offering in the new line will be Reese’s Old School Charcoal Capsules, a dietary supplement for the relief of intestinal gas and flatulence.  

The main ingredient, activated charcoal, is a highly recognized, proven remedy that adsorbs the toxins that cause flatus and gas, reducing after-meal discomfort. 

Reese’s Old School Charcoal Capsules will be available in a 36-count blister with carton in both the Reese Old School brand as well as private label.

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