In victory for retail pharmacy, military levels TRICARE prescription purchasing field
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — In a ruling hailed by retail pharmacy leaders, the Department of Defense now is insisting that drug manufacturers extend the same discounts for prescription drugs sold at community pharmacies that the military gets for medicines dispensed through base dispensaries or mail order.
The Pentagon issued a clarification of its purchasing rules on Oct. 15, telling pharmaceutical suppliers that they must offer discount prices for retail prescriptions dispensed to members of the military and their families under the TRICARE military health program. Essentially, the final rule helps level the playing field between retail pharmacies and other outlets that dispense medicines to TRICARE beneficiaries, like on-base and mail-order facilities.
The National Association of Chain Drug Stores hailed the clarification as a victory in the retail pharmacy industry’s long campaign to extend full freedom of choice to prescription customers serving in the nation’s armed forces. The final rule “validates the NACDS-backed position that TRICARE beneficiaries should have the ability to choose where they access their prescription medications and other pharmacy services,” noted the group on Oct. 19.
“NACDS has consistently advocated for the ability of military men and women and their families to choose where to obtain their prescriptions, and we commend the Department of Defense for arriving at this conclusion,” said NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson. “NACDS emphasizes the important role of community pharmacies in helping patients take their medications correctly, thus improving health and reducing long-term healthcare costs. The brave soldiers and their families who serve, and who have served, our nation should have the ability to choose community pharmacies.”
The rule, which takes effect Dec. 27, maintains that the discounts apply to all drugs dispensed after Jan. 28, 2008. The timing of the discounts, NACDS noted, “had been a subject of consideration during an official comment period that preceded the issuance of Friday’s final rule.”
The Defense Department predicted it will reap nearly $6.5 billion in total savings over the next five fiscal years as a result of the pricing discounts.
Nevertheless, the clarification on pricing discounts for retail prescriptions marked a step on the road to a level playing field for TRICARE, not a final victory. The ultimate goal: a law that assures that members of the military and their families can have their prescriptions filled anywhere they choose, including their local retail pharmacy, without incurring any financial penalties.
To that end, NACDS noted that it is “advocating in the legislative arena for policies consistent with protecting the right of soldiers to choose where to receive their prescriptions and pharmacy services.” Congress made some progress toward that goal in June, when the House of Representatives passed a continued freeze in retail pharmacy co-payments as part of a larger defense spending authorization bill. But the measure has yet to pass both houses of Congress.
“NACDS is urging Senate passage—and ultimately enactment—of similar legislation in the anticipated post-election session of Congress,” the group noted.
NACDS, NCPA claim pharmacy victory after withdrawal of Medicaid program provisions
ALEXANDRIA, Va. The National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association heralded the withdrawal of two provisions from the Medicaid program that would have had retail pharmacies selling generic drugs at a loss.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services cut provisions that defined average manufacturer price and determined calculation of federal upper limits. The NACDS and NCPA sued CMS in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in November 2007 to obtain an injunction against the provisions, which the court granted. In response, CMS revised its definition of multiple source drugs in October 2008, though the pharmacy lobby groups amended their lawsuit to block that as well, saying it was still against the law. CMS’ new rule removes that provision as well.
In a joint statement, NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson and NCPA EVP and CEO Kathleen Jaeger heralded the decision, saying the rule would have reduced patients’ access to pharmacies by cutting reimbursements, thus forcing retail pharmacies to sell generic drugs at a loss.
“We insisted that this policy was not appropriate,” the statement read. “Separately, we also have urged that policy-makers should recognize the ability of pharmacies and pharmacists to help improve health and reduce healthcare costs. We are gratified that this sense is reflected in the pharmacy provisions of the new healthcare-reform law. The new law contains provisions ranging from dramatically reducing the [accelerated manufacturing of pharmaceutical] cuts to advancing medication therapy management, through which pharmacists can help patients take their medications correctly, which is referred to as ‘medication adherence.’”
Roadside announces partnership to further ‘drive’ wellness programs
BOSTON Two companies have formed a partnership to provide services for long-haul truck drivers.
Sleep HealthCenters and Roadside Medical Clinic + Lab announced a partnership Wednesday to provide sleep medicine services as part of Roadside’s driver-wellness programs.
Roadside provides medical services, such as Department of Transportation-compliant physicals, drug testing, driver-wellness programs and sleep services for professional drivers on the highway and at company terminals. Sleep HealthCenters will support Roadside’s programs by providing education, professional diagnosis and treatment support, which will be incorporated into the driver-wellness program.
“You cannot effectively screen, test and treat sleep apnea without addressing and improving drivers’ overall health condition, such as weight, [body-mass index], stress and cardiac strength,” Roadside COO Rob Scheschareg said. “By providing continuous care for drivers for sleep, fitness, health and [Department of Transportation] compliance from the terminal to the highways, Roadside Medical is able to move the needle toward better driver health.”