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Retail industry applauds introduction of Credit Card Fair Fee Act

BY Allison Cerra

ARLINGTON, Va. The Retail Industry Leaders Association applauded the introduction of legislation that will address hidden and rising interchange fees charged to merchants and consumers by debit and credit card issuers for the processing of transactions.

S. 1212, the Credit Card Fair Fee Act, was introduced by Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill.

The bill comes on the heels of similar legislation known as H.R. 2695, the Credit Card Fair Fee Act. It was presented to the House last week by Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., and Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa.

“The time for action on interchange fees is now, as exemplified by consumer demand for greater transparency and reform of our economy,” said John Emling, RILA’s SVP government affairs. “We are thankful that [they] are committed to bringing transparency and competition to interchange rates.”

Currently, MasterCard and Visa dominate the U.S. market with over an 80% market share and thus have no incentive to negotiate interchange fees – even with the largest retailers in the world, RILA said in a release Wednesday. The Credit Card Fair Fee Act will even the playing field and allow merchants a seat at the table in the determination of credit card fees and terms and the ability to negotiate lower interchange rates with card companies and issuing banks.

According to the RILA, hidden charges raise the cost of all goods purchased by Americans and cost consumers $48 billion in fees in 2008.

“This legislation is not an attempt at regulating the industry or boosting retail profits. It simply enhances competition by allowing merchants to negotiate with dominant banks for the terms and rates of fees. Retailers operate within very slim profit margins and do so purposely to ensure that the cost savings will be passed along to consumers in the form of lower costs and better services,” Emling said.

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Pharmacy groups brief Congress on health, cost benefits of MTM

BY Jim Frederick

WASHINGTON Extending a long campaign to educate federal lawmakers on the value of pharmacy-based patient care services, three pharmacy groups Tuesday briefed members of Congress on the benefits of pharmacist-provided medication therapy management.

Hosting the briefing: the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the National Community Pharmacists Association and the Iowa Pharmacy Association. The event was moderated by Edith Rosath, SVP pharmacy affairs and chief economist at NACDS, and included participants from the University of Tennessee College of Pharmacy, Mirixa and the University of Iowa. Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, also addressed the informational briefing.

The briefing panel discussed patient-care benefits of MTM, the practical impact on providing healthcare to rural and underserved populations, and the cost-saving potential for inclusion within comprehensive healthcare reform legislation.

“As the face of neighborhood healthcare, pharmacists are medication experts, and are uniquely in tune with their patients’ medication needs and requirements,” said NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson. “Pharmacist-provided medication therapy management enhances the pharmacist-patient relationship, improves communication and dialogue, encourages proper patient adherence to medication regimes, and provides unique and individual healthcare services, especially to those patients who suffer from chronic disease.”

Anderson thanked lawmakers “for listening to the nation’s medication experts at today’s informational briefing,” and cited the benefits of MTM and other pharmacy services. Those innovations, he told members of Congress, “have the ability to transform the healthcare delivery system in America and improve individual health care, encourage a healthier population while also reducing overall costs.”

NCPA EVP and CEO Bruce Roberts also addressed the gathering, admonishing lawmakers that pharmacists “are much more than the purveyors of a commodity. They offer a wide array of services that can maximize the benefits of medications for patients.

“That’s why we strongly support medication therapy management and believe those efforts can be buttressed through the legislative process,” Roberts added. He praised Rep. Loebsack, in particular, for his efforts to expand MTM services.

“Now more than ever, as we discuss healthcare reform and improving medication adherence, embracing pharmacist-provided MTM is a no-brainer,” Roberts noted.

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Waxman asks Obama to look for alternative pathway for biosimilars

BY Alaric DeArment

WASHINGTON With biosimilars legislation stalling in both houses of Congress, one of its chief proponents is calling on the Obama administration to let the Food and Drug Administration approve the legistlations with or without a regulatory pathway, according to published reports.

The Associated Press reported Monday that Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., has asked the administration to look for ways to grant approval for biosimilars before either of the bills passes, to allow the FDA to approve them.

Waxman — who co-sponsored the Hatch-Waxman Act of 1984, creating a regulatory pathway for generic pharmaceutical drugs — introduced a bill on March 11 to allow biosimilars. That bill, H.R. 1427, would grant biotech companies five years’ market exclusivity before their products faced biosimilar competition. Waxman’s bill, with 11 co-sponsors and a companion bill in the Senate, competes with fellow California Democratic Rep. Anna Eshoo’s H.R. 1548, introduced six days after Waxman’s, which would grant up to 14 years of exclusivity to biotech companies and had 87 co-sponsors in the House as of Tuesday.

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