PHARMACY

Walgreens, Delaware reach short-term deal in temporary truce over Medicaid payments

BY Jim Frederick

DEERFIELD, Ill. In an 11th-hour, temporary truce in its ongoing impasse over a cut in Medicaid pharmacy reimbursements by the state of Delaware, Walgreens agreed Monday to continue filling prescriptions for Medicaid beneficiaries in the state for several weeks while negotiators for both sides continue negotiating for a solution to the standoff.

At issue: a steep cut beginning July 1 in Medicaid prescription payments by the state’s Medicaid program. That reduction — which cut reimbursement levels to 84% of the April average wholesale price of drugs dispensed under the program — would have forced many Walgreens pharmacies in Delaware to operate at a loss, said SVP pharmacy Kermit Crawford.

In response, the chain signaled it would stop filling scripts for patients covered by Delaware Medicaid as of July 6 — and the company predicted its “difficult” decision would lead to major disruptions in state Medicaid pharmacy services, since roughly half of all Medicaid prescriptions in the state are filled by Happy Harry’s drug stores owned by Walgreens.

Both sides agreed to a temporary compromise late last week, however, averting an immediate crisis over Medicaid reimbursements in Delaware but leaving unanswered longer-term questions about how states faced with budget shortfalls will spread the pain of financial cutbacks, and what other solutions Walgreens and other pharmacy providers could provide to alleviate the funding crisis in health care.

Under terms of the agreement worked out by the chain and Delaware’s Department of Health and Social Services, Walgreens will continue serving Medicaid patients through early August at a rate of 85% of AWP, according to a report from Reuters news service.

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Mylan gets FDA approval for AstraZeneca drug generic

BY Alaric DeArment

PITTSBURGH The Food and Drug Administration has approved Mylan’s generic version of a drug for treating prostate cancer.

Mylan announced Tuesday the approval of bicalutamide tablets in the 50-mg strength. The tablets are a generic version of AstraZeneca’s Casodex, which had U.S. sales of $322 million for the 12 months ended March 31 in the same strength, according to IMS Health data, and global sales of $1.26 billion, according to AstraZeneca financial data.

Teva announced Monday the launch of its own version of the drug.

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Merck shareholders approve merger with Schering-Plough

BY Allison Cerra

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. It’s official: Merck & Co.’s shareholders have approved its merger with Schering-Plough.

Merck announced Friday that its shareholders voted overwhelmingly to approve the proposed merger. The preliminary tabulation indicates that more than 99% of the company’s outstanding shares voted in favor of the transaction. Merck held its special shareholder meeting in Bridgewater, N.J. on Friday to vote on the proposed merger.

“We are gratified by the shareholder confidence demonstrated through the outcome of today’s vote,” said Richard T. Clark, Merck’s chairman, president and CEO. “On behalf of Merck’s Board and management team, I want to thank our shareholders, customers and dedicated employees for their support throughout this process. We look forward to completing the merger with Schering-Plough and to creating a strong, global leader that can make a substantial difference to patients and global health care.”

As previously announced on March 9, under the terms of the agreement, Schering-Plough shareholders will receive 0.5767 of a share of new Merck common stock and $10.50 in cash for each share of Schering-Plough. For Merck shareholders, existing Merck share certificates will automatically represent an equal number of shares in the new Merck after completion of the merger.

The company expects the transaction to close in the fourth quarter of 2009, as originally planned. The transaction remains subject to the satisfaction of customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals, including expiration or termination of the applicable waiting period under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976, as amended, as well as clearance by the European Commission under the SEC Merger Regulation and certain other foreign jurisdictions.

All proxy cards and ballots submitted at the special meeting were processed by IVS Associates Inc. for final tabulation and certification. Final voting results will be publicly announced promptly after they have been tabulated and certified.

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