PHARMACY

Reps. question duplicate drug coverage for federal retirees

BY Drew Buono

WASHINGTON Reps. Henry Waxman, D-Calif. and Danny Davis, D-Ill. have said that more than 200,000 federal retirees are enrolled in two government-sponsored prescription drug programs, and the duplicative coverage may cost more than $200 million annually, according to the Washington Post.

Waxman chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Davis is chairman of the House federal workforce subcommittee. Both have jurisdiction over federal retirement benefits, including health-care coverage provided to civil service and postal retirees.

In a letter to officials for the Bush administration, the two representatives also said that the federal retirees are probably paying $60 million in unnecessary premiums, and taxpayers are providing $140 million in subsidies.

The prescription drug benefits are provided to federal retirees through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program and Medicare Part D. Congress directed Medicare to coordinate benefits with other prescription drug plans, but Medicare and FEHBP “have not acted to require or ensure effective coordination of the drug benefits,” Waxman and Davis wrote. As a result, private insurance companies offering Medicare Part D coverage “appear to be reaping a $200 million windfall annually, paid for by the retirees and American taxpayers,” they wrote.

Their letter, dated May 12, went to Linda Springer, director of the Office of Personnel Management, and Kerry Weems, the acting administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Neither group has responded as of yet.

In the letter, Waxman and Davis said briefings provided by the two agencies raised questions about whether taxpayer money was being wasted. Officials at the agencies, in discussions with the House committee, said there was almost no coordination between the two programs, the letter said.

When Medicare added a prescription drug benefit in 2003, OPM officials said federal retirees didn’t need to enroll in Part D and pay extra for prescription drug coverage because FEHBP benefits were better or equivalent to the coverage provided by Part D. The OPM also said FEHBP and Medicare would coordinate drug benefits, but Waxman and Davis wrote, “this does not appear to be happening.”

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Takeda could see Alogliptin approval in near future

BY Alaric DeArment

OSAKA, Japan Japanese pharmaceutical manufacturer Takeda’s new diabetes drug could get approval soon, according to Bloomberg.

According to the financial news agency, reports by analysts showed that the drug, alogliptin, had promise after the American Diabetes Association released parts of nine studies of the medication that were submitted for marketing approval in the U.S. in January, last week. They show the drug lowered blood sugar levels as much as Merck’s Januvia without serious side effects.

Alogliptin, also known as SYR-322, will compete with Merck’s Januvia and Novartis’ Galvus, which is also up for approval at the Food and Drug Administration. All three drugs are in a new class of diabetes treatments known as DPP4 inhibitors that signal the pancreas to produce more insulin and the liver to make less glucose, or blood sugar.

Assuming approval by the Food and Drug Administration, Alogliptin will succeed Actos, which generates about 29 percent of Takeda’s current revenue. Actos will lose patient approval in 2011.

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Accutane ingredient linked to increased risk of depression

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry has shown a link between use of the acne drug isotretinoin and increased risks of depression.

The drug was shown to more than double the risk of depression in a study of more than 30,000 people in Quebec who had received at least one prescription for it between 1984 and 2003.

Roche Pharmaceuticals’ drug Accutane has isotretinoin as its main active ingredient. The FDA originally granted approval to the drug in 1982.

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