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San Francisco smokers must look elsewhere

BY DSN STAFF

SAN FRANCISCO

San Francisco’s board of supervisors voted 8-3 Aug. 5 to give final approval to a ban on tobacco sales in pharmacies that Mayor Gavin Newsom had proposed in April, after having passed it on a first read July 29.

Supporters of the ban say tobacco sales contradict drug stores’ role as healthcare providers and influence the acceptability of smoking, while opponents say the ban is unfair because it affects drug stores while exempting grocery and big-box stores.

But the big question is, what happens when it takes effect?

Drug store chains don’t really know how to fill what will soon become vacant real estate at the front of their stores.

“I don’t know that anyone has any idea what we’re going to put there,” Rite Aid spokeswoman Cheryl Slavinsky said. “It’s unfair that a drug store would be prohibited from selling tobacco, but a grocery or mass-market store across the street wouldn’t be.”

Walgreens isn’t sure what to do, either. “We are considering all of our options regarding the ban, but haven’t made any decisions yet,” spokeswoman Carol Hively said, though she would not speculate on what those options included.

Walnut Creek, Calif.-based Longs Drugs recently opened its first San Francisco store, which does not sell tobacco products, but Longs spokesman Mark Holz said that was due to the store’s small size rather than the impending tobacco ban.

Once the ban takes effect, the city’s public health department will stop issuing tobacco licenses to pharmacies, department spokesman Jim Soos said. Meanwhile, inspectors who periodically visit licensed stores to make sure they don’t sell to minors will add to their list of duties ensuring that pharmacies aren’t selling tobacco products. The pharmacies can continue selling their tobacco stocks until Oct. 1. Soos speculated that after that, they would probably ship remaining stocks to stores outside the city.

But they might want to think twice if they plan to ship them to neighboring Marin County.

According to the Marin Independent Journal, health officials there have proposed a similar ban, which could go before the county’s board of supervisors as early as this fall.

Holz said that in the event a Marin County ban passed, Longs’ response would depend on each store, due to variations in store size and layout, and the merchandise department would address the matter as it emerged. He did not know of any examples of how stores could respond.

Newsom is expected to sign the ordinance into law within 10 days of its reaching his desk.

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Court rules against Watson in Naprelan case

BY Drew Buono

CORONA, Calif. The United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida ruled that Watson Pharmaceuticals’ naproxen sodium extended-release tablets, a generic version of the pain medication Naprelan, infringes the brand drug manufacturer’s patent, Watson announced Wednesday.

Elan initially brought the suit in October 1998 after Andrx filed an application for a generic version of the drug. In March 2002, the District Court ruled that Elan’s ‘320 patent was invalid. Watson acquired Andrx in November 2006.

In May 2004, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed the District Court’s finding of invalidity and remanded the case for further proceedings. In January 2005, Elan filed a related case against Andrx in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida alleging that Andrx’s generic drug infringes the patent and is seeking damages for willful infringement. In late 2005, the parties completed briefing the District Court on the validity of the patent and whether Andrx’s product infringes it, and the matter has been under submission to the District Court since then.

Watson said it intends to appeal the ruling.

Watson’s naproxen sodium tablets had sales of $4 million over the year ending June 30, according to IMS data.

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Medicare officials predict lower 2009 Part D costs than expected

BY Alaric DeArment

WASHINGTON Monthly premiums for Medicare’s Part D prescription drug program next year will be lower than expected, Medicare officials announced Thursday.

Based on bids submitted by Part D plans, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services estimated that the average monthly premium that recipients will pay for standard Part D coverage will be $28 – lower than the $44.12 predicted in 2003.

At the same time, it is $3 more than the premium for this year, mainly because of rising drug costs and higher plan estimates for catastrophic coverage and the phase-out of a CMS demonstration project.

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