PHARMACY

Report: Medicaid buying unapproved drugs

BY Jim Frederick

WASHINGTON The Associated Press is reporting today that the government—i.e., taxpayers—have coughed up at least $200 million over the past four years to pay for drugs available through the Medicaid program, but never approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

An AP study of federal drug utilization data found Medicaid covers more than 100 unapproved drugs and paid nearly $198 million for them between 2004 and 2007. Millions of private patients are also taking the drugs, AP found.

Many of the drugs are used for common conditions like colds and pain, and have been on the market since before the FDA tightened restrictions on unapproved medications in the early 1960s. Although the agency is trying to clamp down on such drugs, AP reports, many of them remain in use by Medicaid beneficiaries and other patients, accounting for roughly two percent of all prescriptions filled in the United States.

Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa is reportedly calling for an investigation.

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Kirby Lester completes sale of pill-counting machines to supplier in Iraq

BY Alaric DeArment

LAKE FOREST , Ill. Kirby Lester announced Thursday that it had sold several of its KL 15df pill-counting machines to Najmat Burgan, a medical and hospital goods supplier based in Kuwait City.

The company said the recent sale was part of its growing international presence. In the past three months, it has sold its devices to clients in Saudi Arabia, Botswana, Greece, Honduras and others, bringing its total number of customers to more than 30,000.

“When you consider all of the different medications, dispensing methods and manufacturing practices across the globe, only Kirby Lester can address the needs of all customers as well as deliver absolute counting accuracy,” Kirby Lester vice president for business development Christopher Thomsen said in a statement. “No other pharmacy technology has such broad appeal, bridges all of these differences and provides a universal solution.”

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Waxman voted House chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., on Thursday was voted in as chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce for the House of Representatives, which oversees all legislation surrounding health and health services, including food and drug.

“I am honored by the vote of the Democratic Caucus,” Waxman stated. “We are at a unique moment and have an opportunity that comes only once in a generation.  I will work with all parts of our Caucus and across the aisle to deliver the change that the American public expects us to deliver.”

“Some of the most important challenges we face—energy, climate change and health—are under the jurisdiction of the Commerce Committee,” Waxman wrote earlier this month in a statement explaining his pursuit of the Commerce Committee Chair. “In large measure, our success as Congress will depend on how the Commerce Committee performs. Enacting comprehensive energy, climate and health care reform will not be easy. But my record shows that I have the skill and ability to build consensus and deliver legislation that improves the lives of all Americans.”

Waxman helped engineer the generics industry as co-author of the Hatch-Waxman Act, which promotes generics while leaving in tact a financial incentive the research and development of branded pharmaceuticals. And while Waxman may be a fan of the generics industry, he has not in the past supported dietary supplements. Waxman has repeatedly called for greater regulation of dietary supplements and has proposed revisiting the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, which governs how supplements are regulated.

However, outgoing chairman Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., was also critical of the dietary supplement industry, having in the past partnered with Waxman on several pieces of legislation regarding regulation of dietary supplements.

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