PHARMACY

Sandoz launches first U.S. biosimilar Zarxio

BY David Salazar

HOLZKIRCHEN, Germany — Sandoz on Thursday announced that it had launched its Zarxio (filgrastim-sndz) injection, a biosimilar of Amgen’s Neupogen (filgrastim). The drug is the first biosimilar drug to launch in the U.S. Zarxio, intended to reduce risk of infection in patients with a low count of white blood cells, is available in boxes of 0.5- and 0.8-ml single-use injections. 

“As the pioneer and global leader in biosimilars, Sandoz has maintained a commitment to bringing high-quality biosimilar medicines to patients and healthcare professionals around the world,” Sandoz’s global head Richard Francis said. “With the launch of Zarxio, we look forward to increasing patient, prescriber and payer access to filgrastim in the US by offering a high-quality, more affordable version of this important oncology medicine.”

Alongside Zarxio, Sandoz is launching is OneSource patient services center that will offer resources and information for patients. 

Though it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration on March 6, Sandoz fought an injunction by Amgen that prevented it from being sold. A July ruling resolved the case, saying that a company whose biosimilar has been approved by the FDA must give the original drug maker 180 days’ notice of commercial marketing before launch.

Thursday's launch was praised by the Generic Pharmaceutical Association’s Biosmilars Council. 

“The Biosimilars Council … is very pleased that a federal appeals court has cleared the way for patients to access the first FDA-approved biosimilar,” the organization said. “The launch of Zarxio is a victory for all champions of improving access and affordability in healthcare.”

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Kmart pays $1.4 million Medicare settlement

BY Dan Berthiaume

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. – Kmart has paid the U.S. government $1.4 million to resolve allegations that it improperly used drug manufacturer coupons and gasoline discounts to reduce pharmacy costs for Medicare patients at Kmart pharmacies.

The settlement resolves allegations that Kmart violated the False Claims Act by providing illegal inducements to beneficiaries of the Medicare program. The government alleged that from June 2011 to June 2014, Kmart influenced the decisions of Medicare beneficiaries to bring their prescriptions to its pharmacies by permitting them to use drug manufacturer coupons to reduce or eliminate prescription co-pays.  

Federal law prohibits influencing a Medicare patient’s choice of provider with this type of offer. The government alleged that Kmart’s conduct caused the Medicare beneficiaries to seek expensive, brand name drugs instead of cheaper generic drugs, which caused the government’s costs to increase without any medical benefit. The government also alleged that Kmart improperly encouraged Medicare beneficiaries to bring their prescriptions to Kmart pharmacies by offering them discounts on gasoline based on the number of prescriptions that they filled at Kmart pharmacies.

The settlement resolves allegations in a lawsuit filed by Joshua Leighr, a former Kmart pharmacist, who will receive approximately $248,500 of the settlement. Kmart is not accepting any liability as part of the settlement.

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Walgreens kicks off vaccination campaign

BY Lesley Thulin

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreens kicked off its third Get a Shot. Give a Shot campaign on Wednesday. This year’s campaign promises to provide a life-saving vaccine for every immunization administered at any Walgreens pharmacy, Healthcare Clinic or Duane Reade until Aug. 31, 2016.

Donations will be made through the United Nations Foundation’s Shot@Life campaign.

“Get a Shot. Give a Shot demonstrates the important role our customers can play, and how a flu shot or other immunization can truly make a world of difference,” Walgreens president Alex Gourlay said. “We’re extremely proud of the global impact the program has made. And as we expand our relationship with the UN Foundation, our objective is to also increase our donation over last season to help provide more life-saving vaccines to children who need them most.”

Around the world, 1 in 5 children cannot access life-saving immunizations, and a child dies every 20 seconds from a vaccine-preventable disease, according to Walgreens. 

"Vaccines protect and improve the lives of millions of children in developing countries each year,” Kathy Calvin, president and CEO of the UN Foundation, said. “The prevention of measles deaths has been the single largest contributor to reducing childhood deaths over the last decade and we are now so close to ending polio. By expanding our partnership with Walgreens, we can support UN efforts to help children access these life-saving vaccines around the globe.”

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