PHARMACY

Walgreens releases patient-level strategy to either keep or help transition ESI prescriptions

BY Michael Johnsen

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreens on Friday unveiled a plan to help Express Scripts patients to either continue using Walgreens when possible or to make a smooth transition to another community pharmacy. The plan seeks to minimize patient disruption and inconvenience, the pharmacy operator stated.

“In recent days, we are hearing more and more from our customers and patients that they are upset about losing access to Walgreens pharmacies as a result of Express Scripts’ actions,” Walgreens president and CEO Greg Wasson said. “Our pharmacy patients have come to depend on their longstanding, personal relationships with their trusted Walgreens pharmacists, and they don’t want to give that up. Because of the trust they have in their Walgreens pharmacist, many patients are asking us about ways that they can continue accessing our pharmacy, health and wellness services. As a result, we are undertaking a comprehensive plan to continue serving our patients when possible, and in other cases help them make a smooth transition and minimize the disruption and inconvenience they may face.”

The Walgreens plan for Express Scripts members includes a special discount during January on the annual membership fee for the Walgreens Prescription Savings Club. Walgreens also is providing additional pharmacist and staff consultations and is providing coupons for discounted health and wellness products and gift cards to eligible Express Scripts members.

On Tuesday, Walgreens reported that "tens of thousands" of patients already have applied for the Walgreens PSC.

Walgreens said it will continue to work closely with employers, health plans and mid-tier PBMs that wish to maintain access to the company’s pharmacies and expanding health and wellness services. According to Walgreens, more than 120 Express Scripts clients to date have informed Walgreens that they have either switched to a different PBM or taken other steps, consistent with their contracts, to maintain access to Walgreens pharmacies in 2012.

PSC is an existing Walgreens drug discount program, with nearly 2 million people enrolled. The program offers savings on more than 8,000 brand name and all generic medications. For more than 400 generic medications, Walgreens offers a three-month supply for less than $1 a week. Normal annual membership is $20 per individual or $35 for a family. For the month of January Walgreens is offering a promotion on one-year memberships, making them only $5 for individuals or $10 for family memberships. This discount is open to all PSC eligible customers.

The initiative also will apply to Duane Reade stores.


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G.WORLEY says:
Jan-09-2012 04:32 am

Since most of the prescriptions that I am on doesn't have a generic equivalent and there isn't a generic available their so called PSC isn't any good. And, I don't believe their figures one bit. I blame both Walgreens and Express Scripts for the issues. I pay the same co-pays no matter what pharmacy I use. Walgreens cannot make this good! IMHO it is Walgreens who is going to be hurt the most of this otherwise they would not be issuing such a plan to try to keep customers. When I switch my prescriptions from Walgreens to CVS last week, I asked how many had switched and they said about 1,500 between the two local stores. George Worley

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Baxter, Momenta partner on biosimilar development

BY Rob Eder

NEW YORK — Baxter and Momenta have agreed to partner to develop and market biosimilar  drugs to treat cancer, autoimmune disorders and other chronic conditions.

Baxter — which makes biosurgery products and drugs for a number of specialty areas, including hemophilia, kidney disease, immune disorders, and vaccines — Baxter will leverage its expertise in clinical development and biologic manufacturing, sterile injectables and global commercialization, while Momenta will bring expertise in high-resolution analytics, characterization, and product and process development.

"As biologics have become an increasingly important part of patient care, the collaboration with Momenta allows us to tap both companies’ expertise to expand access to these important therapies," said Ludwig Hantson, president of Baxter’s bioscience business. "The collaboration complements [our] early-stage pipeline and allows the company to expand its leadership in biologics at a time when the global regulatory pathway for approval is becoming more clear."

Baxter will pay Momenta $33 million upfront under the agreement for its collaboration on up to six follow-on biologic compounds.

The companies expect the deal to close in the first quarter.

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Research: Viagra being studied for heart benefits

BY Michael Johnsen

QUERENBURG, Germany — According to research to be published in the journal Circulation released Friday, sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra, can help alleviate heart problems.

The research was conducted in collaboration with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Researchers studied dogs with diastolic heart failure, a condition in which the heart chamber does not sufficiently fill with blood. The scientists showed that sildenafil makes stiffened cardiac walls more elastic again. The drug activates an enzyme that causes the giant protein titin in the myocardial cells to relax. "We have developed a therapy in an animal model that, for the first time, also raises hopes for the successful treatment of patients" stated Wolfgang Linke of the RUB Institute of Physiology.

Sildenafil inhibits a specific enzyme (phosphodiesterase 5 A), which causes the increased formation of a messenger substance (cGMP). The messenger substance activates the enzyme protein kinase G, which attaches phosphate groups to certain proteins. This phosphorylation causes blood vessels to relax, which was why the "potency pill" Viagra originally came onto the market. The Bochum and Rochester researchers found that the cardiac muscle protein titin is also phosphorylated through the same mechanism. "The titin molecules are similar to rubber bands" Linke explained. "They contribute decisively to the stiffness of the cardiac walls." The activity of the protein kinase G causes titin to relax. This makes the cardiac walls more elastic. The effect occurs within minutes of administering the drug.

"Of all the patients aged over 60 who are in hospital because of a weak heart, half suffer from diastolic heart failure," Linke added. "Although we know that the decreased distensibility of the cardiac walls is the cause, the disease cannot be treated properly with today’s medicines." In the "Relax" study of the Heart Failure Network, the efficacy of sildenafil in people is already being tested. "If, for the first time, the drug is found to have a positive effect on heart failure, we would already have a molecular mechanism on hand to explain the effect," Linke said.


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