PHARMACY

Retail lobbyists fret over public option

BY Jim Frederick

ARLINGTON, Va. Retail business leaders are fretting over provisions in the health-reform package now being hotly debated in the Senate, fearing the measure could raise their operating costs and drive many beneficiaries from the plans they know and like.

In a letter sent Tuesday to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., the Retail Industry Leaders Association voiced alarm that healthcare-reform legislation could exacerbate many of the economic and health coverage problems Congress and the White House are trying to confront. The group asked Reid to consider changing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to ease its impact on employers and their health plan members.

Among RILA’s chief concerns: that the bill, if passed as written, “would shift costs on to employers to pay for a public plan, reduce benefit design flexibility and innovation, [and] force employers to enroll new employees within 30 days of hire.” The Senate measure, added the group’s SVP government affairs, John Emling, “could undermine economic recovery, cost more jobs for the retail industry and drive employees from the health care plans they currently know and like.”

The retail industry lobby is particularly leery of the bill’s provision to establish a public health plan option. Reid and other Democrats – along with the Obama Administration – are advancing the public option as a way to compete with private insurers in order to hold down health insurance premiums and other out-of-pocket costs, and to give consumers another choice in the insurance market. But RILA asserts the plan is anathema to employers.

“No federal or state public health plan can operate as a fair competitor with the private market because of the government’s distinct advantage as both regulator and provider of care,” Emling, told Reid. “Further, the medical provider payment rates prescribed in this legislation are lower than market value and, much like we have seen with Medicare and Medicaid will force providers to increase rates on private market plans.

“These two forces combined could ultimately eradicate the employer-based system of health benefits that has proven to reduce systemic costs and ensure quality, affordable care for millions of Americans,” Emling warned.

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Valeant to acquire Laboratoire Dr. Renaud

BY Alaric DeArment

ALISO VIEJO, Calif. U.S. drug maker Valeant Pharmaceuticals International will acquire a Canadian cosmeceutical company, Valeant announced Monday.

Valeant Canada will purchase Laval, Quebec-based Laboratoire Dr. Renaud for C$21.8 million, leasing a 45,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing plant for topical products. Dr. Renaud has annual sales of $10.4 million, and the acquisition is expected to be completed in 2010.

“This acquisition is part of our continued efforts to build a leading dermatology business by adding respected brand names in our select regions,” Valeant chairman and CEO J. Michael Pearson stated. “Laboratoire Dr. Renaud enjoys a high degree of loyalty from esthetic clinics and spas, and we believe that Valeant will gain immediate entree into the cosmeceutical market in Canada. With exclusive access to a world class topical manufacturing plant and a successful sales and marketing infrastructure, we also have the ability to launch select U.S. dermatology products into Canada and further expand our reach in dermatology.”

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FDA warns GSK’s HIV drug may increase risk of heart attack

BY Alaric DeArment

ROCKVILLE, Md. The Food and Drug Administration and GlaxoSmithKline have warned healthcare professionals of the risk of heart attack and buildup of cholesterol in patients taking a drug used to treat HIV.

The FDA released an alert Thursday announcing that it had modified the prescription information for the drug Lexiva (fosamprenavir calcium) to note that some patients taking the drug have experienced increases in cholesterol, a condition known as dyslipidemia, and recommend that patients undergo cholesterol and triglyceride testing before and during therapy with the drug.

In other news, the agency warned of possible birth defects among babies born to women who take the epilepsy drug valproate sodium and related drugs during pregnancy, including defects of the head and face and circulatory systems. Valproate sodium and related drugs are mostly available as generics, and Abbott Labs markets them under brand names such as Depacon (valproate sodium injection) and Depakote (divalproex sodium tablets).

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