HEALTH

SDI: Antiviral prescriptions on the rise

BY Michael Johnsen

PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa. According to SDI’s Vector One: National, antiviral prescriptions rose dramatically last week to more than 648,000, an increase of more than 73% in the past two weeks, Surveillance Data reported Wednesday.

Antiviral prescriptions have climbed each week since the week ending Aug. 21, but the increases in the past two weeks have been significant. More than 640,000 prescriptions were filled for Tamiflu in the week ending Oct. 23, up more than 28% from just over 502,000 the week before.

At 648,000, the volume of antiviral prescriptions last week was higher than at any point last season, and approximately 40% higher than the most active antiviral prescription week during the spring pandemic wave: 271,169 in the week ended May 1.

“While there is always variability in flu activity each year, including antiviral prescription trends, this year we are well above prescription volumes we’ve seen in years past and significantly higher than any October on record,” stated Laurel Edelman, SDI’s VP clinical accounts. “This trend is also being seen in our weekly local tracking and consolidation of electronic healthcare claims, where we’ve seen submissions, representing physician office visits for influenza, increase an average 30% each week since the beginning of September.”

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Ganeden Biotech announces partnership with National Farmers Organization

BY Allison Cerra

CLEVELAND The maker of a patented probiotic strain announced a new partnership agreement with the National Farmers Organization to create awareness of the health benefits of probiotics, and increase the availability of probiotic-enhanced milk.

Ganeden Biotech said the partnership gives the NFO access to the premier probiotic GanedenBC30, offering processors the opportunity to provide probiotic-enhanced milk products to consumers. Ganeden Biotech will serve as the organization’s sole probiotic provider.

“We are thrilled to be able to provide the health benefits of probiotic-enhanced milk to consumers, while also providing another stream of revenue for our nation’s family dairy farmers,” said Bradley Rach, NFO national dairy director. “The quality of Ganeden Biotech’s probiotic strain, GanedenBC30, coupled with the caliber of the company’s scientific operations made it the ideal partner for our organization.”

“Partnering with the National Farmers Organization will allow us to provide more consumers with access to probiotic-enhanced milk products, while simultaneously supporting family farmers,” said Ganeden Biotech CEO Andrew Lefkowitz. “We are proud to partner with the NFO in this endeavor and help support our country’s farms.”

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Walgreens said to consider sale of PBM

BY Jim Frederick

NEW YORK Walgreens is mulling the sale of its 15-year-old Walgreens Health Initiatives pharmacy benefit management division, Bloomberg news service reported Monday.

Walgreens is neither confirming nor denying the report. Company spokesman Robert Elfinger said the company “[would] not comment on rumors or speculation.”

WHI and its mail-order pharmacy component generate in excess of $1 billion in annual revenues and fill or process more than 100 million prescriptions, and Bloomberg cited sources who estimated a sale of the PBM could fetch $500 million to $1 billion, depending on what assets are included in the deal. Among the PBMs that have expressed interest in WHI, according to Bloomberg, are the industry’s top three players: CVS Caremark, Medco Health Solutions and Express Scripts.

In one sense, the sale of Walgreens Health Initiatives would simplify the company’s business model and eliminate a somewhat schizophrenic approach to the pharmacy market. The reason: Even as it has marketed its PBM and mail services, Walgreens also has competed hard against mail-order pharmacy, and taken a firm stand against other PBMs when they instituted policies mandating that their members use mail order exclusively for maintenance medication refills.

What’s more, WHI gradually has been eclipsed in the company’s hierarchy of priorities by a massive effort to develop and integrate all the company’s “points of care,” and take those services directly to employers, health plans and patients. Its health service arsenal now includes nearly 7,562 drug store pharmacies; its Take Care Health Systems subsidiary, which manages some 400 worksite health centers as part of the Walgreens Complete Care and Wellbeing health service network, along with some 350 Take Care in-store, convenient-care clinics; its fast-growing specialty pharmacy and home-infusion business; and its roughly 100 hospital and professional pharmacies.

In a 2009 interview with Drug Store News, Walgreens president and CEO Greg Wasson gave a hint about the diminishing strategic importance of WHI as the company shifted its focus to providing a wide menu of health services directly to employers and health insurance plans. “The neat thing about … our employer solutions model is that large employers and managed care organizations are interested in working with us because they see us as a provider of services they can work with, and pharmacy benefit managers look to us, too,” he said at the time. “We don’t have to be the PBM.”

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