PHARMACY

TRICARE legislation passes Senate, easing threat of mail order pharmacy

BY Jim Frederick

WASHINGTON Drawing praise from pharmacy advocates, the Senate has approved legislation that would allow soldiers, military retirees and their families to continue using local community pharmacies for their prescriptions without penalty.

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 passed by the Senate includes the “pro-soldier, pro-savings” approach to prescriptions filled through the TRICARE military health system that’s advocated by groups like the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association. It extends the current freeze on increases to retail pharmacy co-payments, and also includes language, offered by Senator Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., that prohibits increased co-payments for military beneficiaries using retail pharmacies in the TRICARE program.

The Senate bill also includes clarifies the ability of the Department of Defense to negotiate with drug manufacturers for federal pricing discounts for TRICARE prescriptions filled at retail, in the same manner as those filled at military bases or by mail order. Those price discounts could yield $300 million in savings in fiscal 2008, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates, and $1.8 billion in savings through the year 2012.

“In addition to leveling the playing field between mail order and retail pharmacies, these tremendous savings eliminate the need to penalize beneficiaries who choose to obtain their prescription medications and services from their local pharmacies,” NACDS noted in a statement today.

“This bill is pro-soldier in that it protects the right of over nine million TRICARE beneficiaries to benefit from their relationships with chain community pharmacists…which improve patient outcomes,” said NACDS president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson. “The bill also is pro-savings for military families and for the Department of Defense alike.

“Now that these provisions have passed both the House and Senate, chain community pharmacy will remain vigilant to ensure this sound approach to public policy is enacted into law,” he added.

The Defense Authorization Act now requires negotiation of differences between House and Senate versions of the bill followed by the signature of the President. NACDS and NCPA, through the Coalition for Community Pharmacy Action, are lobbying for the quick enactment of the law.

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President Bush signs bill for delay of tamper-resistant prescriptions

BY Adam Kraemer

ALEXANDRIA, Va. The National Association of Chain Drug Stores thanked President Bush on Monday for his quick action in signing a bill which would extend the implementation date requiring all Medicaid prescriptions to be written on tamper-resistant prescription paper, originally set at Oct. 1.

In a communication to the White House last week, Steve Anderson, NACDS president and chief executive officer, stated, “Without the delay, we anticipate that Medicaid patients will not receive the medications they need in a timely fashion. Disruptions in medication therapy result in human costs and more costly downstream treatments that negatively affect the entire health care system.”

The six-month delay was included as part of H.R. 3668, which also extends certain health care programs that would have expired on the same date.

A provision tucked into an Iraq war spending bill (Public Law 110-28), finalized on May 25, required doctors and other prescribers to write prescriptions on tamper-resistant prescription pads for Medicaid patients beginning October 1, 2007.

NACDS led the charge in seeking a delay of the tamper-resistant requirement, arguing that four months was not enough time for regulators, doctors, pharmacists and prescription pad manufacturers across the country to comply with such a widespread change. With 300 million Medicaid prescriptions filled annually, this requirement would have led to serious disruptions in patient care.

“We cannot express our thanks to President Bush enough for helping low-income Americans continue to receive their prescription medications,” said Anderson. “If the bill was not enacted by today—Oct. 1—the nation’s community pharmacists would have had to choose between serving their patients and being reimbursed for the Medicaid prescriptions they fill—a decision no pharmacist should have to face.”

This issue was an urgent priority for NACDS. However, the organization points out that community pharmacy still faces a much larger threat—a new benchmark, Average Manufacturer Price, that will cut Medicaid pharmacy reimbursements by over $8 billion.

“This six-month delay is crucial to protecting patient access to medications, and it’s an important victory for community pharmacy,” said Anderson. “But we can’t rest. We must continue fighting to ensure that reimbursement cuts do not threaten the ability of pharmacists to serve low-income patients.”

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FDA gives tentative approval to Teva’s generic Valtrex

BY Drew Buono

JERUSALEM Teva has received tentative approval from the Food and Drug Administration to market a generic version of GlaxoSmithKline’s herpes drug Valtrex, according to the Associated Press.

Final approval on the generic will be expected in December 2009 after the patent expires on the brand. Mylan has also received tentative approval for a generic version of Valtrex as well.

Valtrex had sales of about $1.3 billion last year.

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