PHARMACY

Reports say independent pharmacies charge more for Rxs; see increase in profits, salaries

BY Jenna Duncan

WASHINGTON Reports released today said that data from MyFloridarx.com, a Web site maintained by Florida’s office of the attorney general, shows that independent drug stores in Florida are charging about 15 percent more for several widely prescribed drugs. The findings have raised concerns over recent requests by independent pharmacy groups to receive collective bargaining privileges.

Figures in the 2008 National Community Pharmacists Association Digest also have shown that independent pharmacies have seen an increase in profits and salaries over the past year. And, survey results which ran in Drug Topics magazine this year showed that pharmacists in independent pharmacy on average earn an annual base salary of $109,618.

The salary and profits reported by independent pharmacies and the percentage of prescription drug markups have raised questions over some of the wording of the Community Pharmacy Fairness Act of 2007 (HR 971). Particularly, that the act “Entitles independent pharmacies negotiating contract terms with a health plan for the provision of health care items or services to the same treatment under the antitrust laws as the treatment to which bargaining units recognized under the National Labor Relations Act are entitled,” but, prohibits “applying this Act to negotiations between independent pharmacies and health plans pertaining to federal health benefits.”

The Federal Trade Commission stated during testimony on HR 971 before the House Judiciary Committee Antitrust Task Force, “Giving heathcare providers … a license to engage in price fixing and boycotts in order to extract higher payments from third-party payers would be a costly step backward, not forward, on the path to a better healthcare system.”

The Congressional Budget Office recently stated that HR 971 would raise federal costs by $640 million in 10 years. CBO also said that the bill would cause an increase in prescription drug expenses for consumers, employers and private health plans that would result in health insurance benefits getting slashed and higher copayments.

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FDA approves Treanda for treatment of Hodgkin’s disease

BY Alaric DeArment

FRAZER, Pa. The Food and Drug Administration has approved a drug for treating non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the drug’s manufacturer announced Monday.

Cephalon announced the agency’s approval of its drug Treanda (bendamustine hydrochloride), an injection for treating indolent B-cell NHL that has progressed up to six months following treatment with Rituxan (rituximab), made by Genentech and Biogen Idec, or a drug regimen that includes Rituxan.

Indolent NHL is a cancer of the lymphatic system that is not curable and often relapses after initial therapy. It affects about 30,000 people in the United States each year, according to the National Cancer Institute.

“Because most patients with indolent non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma eventually become resistant to existing treatments, new treatment options like Treanda are needed to improve patient outcome,” Georgetown University medicine professor and Treanda clinical investigator Bruce Cheson said in a statement.

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PharmaSmart to grow its blood pressure management systems in U.S. market

BY Michael Johnsen

ROCHESTER, N.Y. PharmaSmart International announced last week its intent to penetrate the U.S. market with its blood-pressure management program that has already enjoyed acceptance in the Canadian marketplace, boasting 75 percent penetration.

“Our goal as a company is to change the paradigm in community blood pressure screening,” stated Ashton Maaraba, PharmaSmart’s global vice president of sales and marketing. “We have committed significant resources to ensuring our clients execute at every level, delivering a turnkey program that delivers on the massive blood pressure management opportunity.”

Unlike existing blood pressure programs, which may primarily act as vehicles for third party advertising, PharmaSmart proposes to convert the hypertensive patient into a revenue-generating opportunity, and retain that consumer with an exclusive, pharmacy-branded BP management program, the company stated.

PharmaSmart’s blood pressure management tools and programs allow pharmacies to capitalize on the hypertension opportunity. PharmaSmart’s branded Smart Card offers pharmacists a long-term management tool for their patients that has been found to improve hypertension discovery, consultation, and prescription compliance, all significant challenges in the fight against hypertension, Maaraba noted.   

PharmaSmart’s “pharmacy first/patient first” platform seeks to augment the patient-pharmacist relationship through an education program—both point-of-sale training and continuing education—for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians around hypertension. The program includes PharmaSmart’s patented blood-pressure cuff, patient Smart Card management tool, and a patient web portal.

In Canada, PharmaSmart is present in Rexall, Shoppers Drug Mart, Wal-Mart Canada, Loblaws, Le Group Jean Coutu, Safeway Canada and Calgary Coop, among other pharmacies.

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