Shopko joins ranks with Rx mobile app
A mass merchandise retailer based in the Midwest has become the latest chain to join the move toward smartphone apps that allow customers to manage their pharmacy prescriptions. Fresh off the heels of its merger with Omaha, Neb.-based Pamida, Shopko announced the launch of an app for BlackBerry, Android and iPhone users that will allow customers to refill and manage their pharmacy prescriptions.
Customers using the app can request refills, review active prescription details — including expiration dates, refills remaining and overdue refills — set up dosage reminders, and receive email and text notifications when a refill is ready. It also includes a pharmacy locator that allows customers to locate and get driving directions to a pharmacy while checking hours of operation.
“We are always exploring new ways to improve customer service and make our pharmacy services more convenient, and this app makes finding our stores and filling prescriptions on their mobile devices quick and easy for our customers,” Shopko president, chairman and CEO Paul Jones said.
Several other retailers also have launched pharmacy apps recently. In October, Walgreens unveiled “Refill by Scan,” which allows patients to scan the bar code of a prescription and order refills in seconds, in addition to such previous technology as refill reminder text alerts and other apps for Apple, Android and BlackBerry devices. Meanwhile, supermarket chain Winn-Dixie launched a smartphone app and mobile website, m.WinnDixieRx.com. Customers can track their refill status and manage health information while locating Winn-Dixie pharmacies. An app for the Android and iPhone from CVS Caremark gives users access to the Drug Information Database and prescription management tools.
Generics cos. turn to biosimilars as patent cliff approaches
With the patent cliff and subsequent innovation drought moving closer, generic drug makers are looking to move up the value chain and pursue new sources of revenue, and of all the piles of pay dirt out there, biosimilars represent one of the closest things to an El Dorado, though regulations won’t take their final form for a while.
Currently, follow-on biologics manufacturers are restricted to a small group of companies making them for the European market — namely Sandoz, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and Hospira — as well as companies making them for other markets, such as Dr. Reddy’s Labs. But other drug makers with piles of cash are looking to get in on the action, and it’s a lot more complicated than simply building a new lab and hiring a few more people.
Watson Pharmaceuticals announced last month a deal with Amgen to develop follow-on biologics. The deal would combine Amgen’s expertise as a biotech drug maker and Watson’s deep industry connections as a generic drug maker. Under the deal, Watson will contribute $400 million in co-development costs with Amgen and take responsibility for marketing and commercialization.
Also last month, Baxter and Momenta announced a deal to develop biosimilars for cancer, autoimmune disorders and other chronic conditions, with Baxter using its expertise in clinical development and manufacturing of biologics, sterile injectables and global commercialization and Momenta using its experience in high-resolution analytics, characterization and product and process development.
FTC, drug cos. clash over patent settlements
It has become a perennial issue, and one that is likely to crop up at least once this year: patent settlements.
The Federal Trade Commission has repeatedly assailed patent settlements between branded and generic drug companies, branding many of them as “pay-for-delay” deals and alleging that they cost the healthcare system billions per year by delaying the entrance of generic drugs onto the market. Meanwhile, the drug companies say that the deals — which result from attempts by generic drug companies to gain Food and Drug Administration approval for a drug after the branded drug’s market exclusivity period has expired, but before its patent expires — usually ensure that generic drugs reach the market well ahead of patent expiration.
Where these deals attract the FTC’s ire is when a generic company agrees not to launch its drug immediately in exchange for a “payment” from the branded drug company, which can come in the form of cash or, more often, a pledge by the branded company not to launch its version of the drug under its generic name at a reduced price — also known as an authorized generic — during the generic drug’s 180-day market exclusivity period.
Members of Congress have attacked the deals as well. In November 2011, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., introduced the Fair Generics Act, which would revoke the 180-day exclusivity period for a generic company that enters such a patent settlement deal. “The Fair Generics Act is an important step in addressing the root cause of the growing cost of health care — the delay of generic drugs entering the market,” Bingaman said, according to the Congressional Record.