PHARMACY

Two more professional groups endorse e-prescribing initiative

BY Jim Frederick

WASHINGTON By the first of next year, the Bush administration has decreed that all computer-generated prescriptions covered by the Medicare Part D drug benefit program must be transmitted electronically for filling by pharmacies. But many healthcare provider groups aren’t waiting for a federal mandate.

Two more of those groups have announced their participation in “Get Connected,” a new campaign to spur more of the nation’s physicians to begin sending prescriptions to pharmacies electronically. The latest to join the effort are the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners and the American Academy of Physician Assistants.

“Get Connected” is designed to help thousands of prescribers comply with new Medicare rules, which are scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2009.

The focal point of the program is an online portal—www.GetRxConnected.com—where physicians can follow a step-by-step process to help them shift from paper-based prescribing to e-prescribing.  In the three months since the program’s launch, more than 1,700 practices representing 13,000 prescribing doctors have used GetRxConnected.com to begin the transition, according to SureScripts, the e-prescribing network provider.

AANP, founded in 1985, represents about 125,000 nurse practitioners nationwide. AAPA is the only national organization to represent physician assistants in all medical and surgical specialties.

Nurse practitioners and physician assistants cannot steer a patient to one pharmacy over another to have their prescription filled. But the support of both groups to Get Connected hinges on larger factors.

“Moving nurse practitioners to electronic prescribing is an essential step toward improving the quality of patient care,” said AANP president Mona Counts, president of the American Academy of Nurse practitioners. “E-prescribing reduces errors and the opportunity for adverse drug interaction events.”

AANP, Counts added, “will help spread the word about the many benefits of e-prescribing.”

Greg Bennett, president of AAPA, said physician’s assistants are also behind the switch to paperless prescribing. “AAPA is happy to be a partner with the Get Connected program and aid the over 68,000 PAs in clinical practice to better help their patients,” he said. E-prescribing, he added, “enhances the safety of the patient by optimizing the communication between the physician assistant and the pharmacist.

“E-prescribing also helps prescriber decision-making by having vital information such as medication history, patient allergies, and drug treatment options immediately available at the point of care,” added Bennett.

In addition to the AANP and AAPA, Get Connected is already drawing support from other high-profile medical groups. They include the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Cardiology, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Osteopathic Association and the Medical Group Management Association.

Created under the auspices of The Center for Improving Medication Management (founded by the AAFP, Humana Inc., Intel Corporation, the MGMA and SureScripts), GetRxConnected.com contains urgent information and guidance for an estimated 150,000 prescribers located throughout the U.S. that are currently using electronic medical record (EMR) and other clinical software to fax prescriptions to pharmacies.

Through the Web site, prescribers and their staffs, after filling out a brief self-assessment, can find out if the software brand and version they are using is certified to generate e-prescriptions compliant with the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs as required by the new Medicare Part D regulations.

The site also provides guidance on how to evaluate and acquire technology that supports e-prescribing and also help e-prescribers assess the financial impact of the process using an interactive feature that allows them to calculate the estimate of time and rescources they currently are dedicating to the manual processing of prescriptions. A study by MGMA’s Group Practice Research Network estimates that that administrative complexity related to prescriptions costs practices $15,700 a year for each full-time physician, not including the time and cost of managing prescription faxes.’And e-prescribing could not only save money, it could save lives. According to the Center for Information Technology Leadership, the use of electronic prescribing with advanced decision-support capabilities could help prevent 130,000 life-threatening medication errors annually.

SureScripts, however, estimates that only about 7 percent of eligible prescriptions nationwide, or about 100 million, will be routed electronically in 2008.

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Ipsen to acquire Tercica in $663 million deal

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK Paris-based pharmaceutical company Ipsen is buying Brisbane, Calif.-based biotechnology company Tercica for $663 million, or $9 a share.

Ipsen was already a major shareholder in Tercica, and the deal puts it in control of the remaining shares. It hopes to use the deal to expand operations in the U.S.

Ipsen will also buy British drugmaker Vernalis’ U.S. subsidiary and has acquired rights to Octagen’s experimental hemophilia drug OBI-1.

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Taro tries to cancel deal with Sun

BY Drew Buono

MUMBAI, India In response to Taro announcing that it was canceling a merger agreement with Sun Pharmaceuticals, Sun chairman Dilip Shanghvi fired off a letter telling the drugmaker it cannot exit the deal.

After a year in which Taro’s finances rebounded from red to black, the company said it wanted out of its deal with Sun because the deal did not reflect its improved performance. In response, Shanghvi expresses disappointment that Taro made its announcement without engaging in meaningful dialogue. He also points out that Taro had only $47 million in cash as of March 31 and, without Sun’s infusions of cash last year, “Taro would have virtually negative cash—hardly the ‘dramatic’ improvement of which Taro has boasted.”

Last May, Sun agreed to acquire Taro for $454 million. Some stockholders objected to the agreement’s $7.75 per share offer and petitioned the Tel Aviv District Court for a temporary injunction, which the court never issued, to prevent Taro from harming minority shareholders.

After Taro reported net sales of approximately $313 million and a gross profit of nearly $168 million for 2007, the company’s board of directors unanimously voted to cancel the merger agreement, saying the company’s improved financials made Sun’s offer inadequate. The move came even after Sun purportedly offered to raise the merger price to $10.25 per share, according to Taro.

In light of Taro’s actions, Sun is considering its options, including commencing legal proceedings, Shanghvi says, adding that he is available to discuss a negotiated transaction with Taro.

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