PHARMACY

Shire launches rare-disease research project

BY Alaric DeArment

LEXINGTON, Mass. — Drug maker Shire has started a research program focused on rare diseases and their effects on patients and healthcare professionals, the company said Monday.

Shire announced the launch of the Shire Rare Disease Impact Report, which includes surveys of patients, caregivers, physicians, payers and others in the United States and United Kingdom, with results expected in the first half of 2013.

According to the Global Genes Project, about 7,000 types of rare diseases affect an estimated 350 million people worldwide and are often chronic, progressive, degenerative, life-threatening and disabling.

"Despite the progress that has been made over the past few decades in the rare disease space, there is still an urgent need to better understand this community and its needs," said Nicole Boice, founder and CEO of the Global Genes I R.A.R.E. Project and a member of the project’s advisory board. "I’m thrilled to be involved in the development of this Rare Disease Impact Report, as its findings will help elevate awareness for the rare disease community and guide future research and education for affected patients and their families."

Other members of the advisory board are Priya S. Kishnani, Duke University Medical Center division chief for medical genetics; Tomas Philipson, professor of public policy studies at the University of Chicago; Alastair Kent, director of the Genetic Alliance UK; Christian Hendriksz, clinical lead for adult inherited metabolic disorders at the United Kingdom’s Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust; and Mike Drummond, professor of health economics at the University of York.

"At Shire, patients are at the heart of everything we do, and we continually strive to provide support for those touched by rare diseases," Shire HGT president Sylvie Gregoire said. "We hope the findings from this Rare Disease Impact Report will provide the rare disease community at large with new, unique insights on how best to address the holistic needs of the rare disease community and drive important conversations and innovation."

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PHARMACY

Getting into specialty serves retailers’ best interests

BY Alaric DeArment

Kroger announced Thursday it will acquire the outstanding shares of Axium Pharmacy Holdings, a leading specialty pharmacy, and merge the two companies. By now, it should be clear that specialty is becoming an increasingly important part of the retail pharmacy mix, having grown more than sixfold in revenues between 2000 and 2011, with everyone from Rite Aid to Costco to Hy-Vee biting off a piece for themselves.

As Specialty Pharmacy magazine reported in its fall 2012 issue, specialty drug development is starting to play a much bigger role in drug development overall than traditional pharmaceuticals. According to the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, seven of the top 20 drug therapy classes will be in specialty by 2016, including cancer, autoimmune disorders and antivirals, and specialty and bioengineered drugs remain one of the few growth centers in the drug industry in 2012. And according to Express Scripts, the market for specialty and bioengineered drugs is expected to grow from 2011’s 17.1% to 22% by 2014.

A quick look at the state of the drug industry shows where things are going as well. While many branded drug companies have shifted significant development into specialty — with Pfizer, Merck and Bristol-Myers Squibb serving as prominent examples — generic drug makers are looking to get into the action with biosimilars. In October 2012, Sandoz started a phase-3 trial of a biosimilar version of Amgen’s anemia drug Epogen (epoetin alfa) and is conducting trials of other biosimilars, while Teva won Food and Drug Administration approval for Tbo-filgrastim, a biosimilar of Amgen’s Neupogen (filgrastim), used to treat reduced white blood cell counts in patients on chemotherapy, in August 2012.

In other words, whether doing it through mergers and acquisitions, like Kroger, or through partnerships, like Hy-Vee’s deal with Amber Pharmacy, retailers that don’t take advantage of specialty pharmacy have little to gain and much to lose.

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CVS Caremark: NACo Rx discount card has saved Americans more than $500M

BY Antoinette Alexander

WASHINGTON and WOONSOCKET, R.I. — Residents in counties across the country that participate in the National Association of Counties’ Prescription Discount Card Program have saved more than $500 million on their prescription medications since the launch of the program in 2004, according to data released by NACo and CVS Caremark.

The NACo Prescription Drug Discount Card Program was created in late 2004 as a 17-county pilot program in partnership with CVS Caremark to provide a valuable membership benefit to counties. The NACo board made the program available to members nationwide in May 2005.

Today, more than 1,400 counties across the United States participate in the program. The average savings per transaction is approximately 24% and those savings can add up over time for many American families.

"This program puts cash back into consumers’ pockets thanks to their county government and the National Association of Counties," stated NACo president Chris Rodgers, commissioner for Douglas County, Neb. "Saving American consumers more than $500 million on their prescription costs is an enormous milestone for our program, and NACo is extremely proud of this result."

"At CVS Caremark, we recognize that medication adherence can positively affect an individual’s overall health, while also helping to reduce overall healthcare costs," added Jon Roberts, president of the PBM business of CVS Caremark. "The NACo Prescription Discount Card Program helps reduce the cost of medications — one of the most frequently cited barriers to taking medications as prescribed — and is one example of the many programs we administer to help support medication adherence and help people on their path to better health."

The savings as a result of the program are significant in many of the participating counties. For example, $24.3 million saved in Montgomery County, Md.; $15.9 million saved in Indianapolis/Marion County, Ind.; $10 million saved in Snohomish County, Wash.; $7.2 million saved in Wake County, N.C.; $6.5 million saved in Maricopa County, Ariz.; $6.2 million saved in Palm Beach County, Fla.; $2.8 million saved in Fulton County, Ga.; and $1.9 million in Cook County, Ill.

Rural counties with populations under 50,000 are also experiencing savings: $546,000 saved in Culpeper County, Va.; $341,000 saved in Buffalo County, Neb.; $184,000 saved in Baxter County, Ark.; $179,000 saved in Brookings County, S.D.; and $119,000 saved in Humboldt County, Iowa. Savings are not exclusive to the continental 48 states: More than $609,000 has been saved in Kenai Peninsula Borough, Alaska, while residents in Honolulu City/County, Hawaii, have saved more than $3.6 million.

The discount card has many benefits: It is easy to get, there are no forms to fill out and it is available at no cost to the consumer. The card can be used by people who do not have insurance or by those who have certain prescriptions that are not covered by their insurance.

The card may be used by any resident of a participating county, regardless of age, income or existing health conditions. Everyone is eligible and one card can be used by the entire family. All commonly prescribed prescription medications, including many pet medications, are eligible for a discount.

The card is accepted within a national network of 65,000 pharmacies, including all the major chains, such as Wal-Mart, CVS/pharmacy, Walgreens, Giant, Safeway and Rite Aid. Participating pharmacies also include the majority of community-based, independent pharmacies.

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