PHARMACY

VirtualHealth Technologies customer recognized at 2009 Towards Electronic Patient Records Awards

BY Alaric DeArment

LEXINGTON, Ky VirtualHealth Technologies announced Wednesday that one of its customers received recognition at the 2009 Towards Electronic Patient Records Awards for its medical privacy software.

Private Access, which licenses VirtualHealth’s Envoii Healthcare STN application, was recognized for its PrivacyLayer, RecruitSource and TrialsFinder applications. VirtualHealth is also an investor in Private Access, which develops Web-based applications to address problems with privacy in sharing confidential patient records.

“We are pleased to be affiliated with Private Access and are excited about their enormous potential in the health technology market,” VirtualHealth board member Deborah Jenkins said in a statement. “Safeguarding privacy is an important factor to properly enable health information technology platforms.”

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Seeking to enlist patients as advocates, NCPA launches online grassroots effort

BY Jim Frederick

ALEXANDRIA, Va. The nation’s top independent pharmacy organization has unveiled a plan to recruit patients themselves in a broad campaign to influence policy in Washington on behalf of community pharmacists.

The new initiative, dubbed Fight4Rx.org, is aimed to “recruiting and transforming patients into grassroots activists for community pharmacies,” noted the National Community Pharmacists Association, “by educating them on the vital role pharmacists play and the serious challenges they face in the delivery of health care.”

Fight4Rx patients will sign up through their local community pharmacies, some 1,000 of which have already begun recruiting patients, according to NCPA. The group has set an initial goal of enlisting 50,000 Fight4Rx patients by the end of 2009. That goal is “well within reach,” NCPA predicts. 

“America’s patients and their families greatly value their community pharmacists and the personalized services they provide,” said Bruce Roberts, EVP and CEO of the independent pharmacy organization. “Fight4Rx patients will have a new forum during the health care reform debate in Washington, DC. They will be able to research issues and speak directly to their legislators about key concerns affecting their access to prescription medication and services by their local community pharmacies.” 

Fight4Rx includes issue briefs on pharmacy patient issues, Medicare and healthcare news updates, and a video blog on the home page, www.Fight4Rx.org, with regular updates from pharmacy industry experts. Patients will receive a monthly e-mail newsletter that will update them on key pharmacy issues and breaking news. When necessary, Fight4Rx will encourage patients to contact their elected officials via a 1-800 number or e-mail. 

NCPA president Holly Henry said patients could become a highly effective ally in community pharmacy’s struggle for greater recognition and a level health care playing field. “I believe the Fight4Rx online community will lead us to fair and common-sense health care policies in the United States by empowering patients to let their voices be heard in establishing the pharmacy home of their choice,” said Henry, a Seattle-based pharmacy owner-operator.

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Merck & Co. reports gain for 4Q

BY Drug Store News Team

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. Merck & Co. said Tuesday announced it had a successful fourth-quarter profit, despite several setbacks over the past year.

The maker of vaccines, cholesterol drugs and asthma treatment Singulair reported a profit of $1.64 billion, or 78 cents per share. A year ago, Merck posted a loss of $1.63 billion, or 75 cents per share, after the company faced approximately 50,000 mainly product liability suits involving its withdrawn painkiller Vioxx.

Lower fourth-quarter costs for materials and production, and for restructuring, down to $103.1 million from $156.2 million in 2007, helped boost the bottom line.

Additional restructuring is anticipated for this year, as the pharmaceutical giant is expected to lay off about 5,300 more workers. Since December 2005, Merck has slimmed down by 10 percent, from 61,500 employees then to 55,200 at the end of 2008.

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