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Walmart to cover breast, lung or colorectal cancers under its Centers of Excellence program

BY Michael Johnsen

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Walmart on Tuesday announced it is expanding its Centers of Excellence program.

Effective Jan. 1, 2015, Walmart associates and family members enrolled in the company’s health reimbursement account plans or health savings account plan who are diagnosed with breast, lung or colorectal cancer can obtain a review of their medical records by Mayo Clinic, and when recommended, receive care covered at 100% for on-site visits at Mayo Clinic Cancer Center locations in Rochester, Minn., Jacksonville, Fla., or Phoenix.
 
“We are proud to expand our Centers of Excellence with Mayo Clinic to help ensure that our associates and their covered family members who are diagnosed with cancer receive the best care,” said Sally Welborn, SVP global benefits at Walmart. “The three cancers covered under our program are among the most prevalent experienced by associates on our healthcare plans.”
 
"We are pleased that Walmart approached us to help its associates diagnosed with breast, colon and lung cancer,” said Jan Buckner, deputy director for practice at Mayo Clinic Cancer Center. “Our coordinated approach to cancer care offers patients the latest advances in treatment in a compassionate and caring environment.”
 
Walmart’s Centers of Excellence cancer program will provide a review of an associate’s medical record, or their covered family member’s medical record, by Mayo Clinic oncologists following a diagnosis of breast, lung or colorectal cancer. The review will determine if they would benefit from an on-site visit at a Mayo Clinic location. On-site visits will be covered at 100% and will include recommended treatment — such as chemotherapy, radiation or surgery — without deductible or co-insurance, plus travel expenses for the patient and a caregiver.
 
The National Cancer Institute reports that breast cancer is the most common type of cancer, with about 235,000 new cases expected in the United States in 2014. Lung cancer, with more than 224,000 cases expected this year, and colorectal cancer, with a projected 136,000 new cases in 2014, also rank among the most common cancers in the United States.
 
Walmart launched its first-of-a-kind Centers of Excellence program in January 2013, which focused on select spine and cardiac procedures. In 2014, Walmart partnered with the Pacific Business Group on Health to extend the Centers of Excellence program to include knee and hip replacement procedures. Walmart first partnered with Mayo Clinic in 1997 for associates in need of organ transplants.
 

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PTCB implements two changes in recertification requirements for Certified Pharmacy Technicians

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — Beginning in 2015, the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board will implement two changes in recertification requirements for Certified Pharmacy Technicians, the group announced Monday. 
 
First, any continuing education hours earned by a CPhT will need to be pharmacy technician-specific to qualify for recertification. Second, PTCB will reduce the number of allowable 'in-service' CE hours from 10 to 5. In-service CE refers to certain projects or training earned at a CPhT's workplace under a pharmacist's supervision. 
 
PTCB's new requirements are part of the Certification Program changes PTCB announced in early 2013 to advance pharmacy technician qualifications by elevating PTCB's standards for certification and recertification. The revised CE requirements are meant to ensure that CPhTs are continually educated through programs specific to the knowledge required in today's pharmacy settings. 
 
As the nation's healthcare system evolves, pharmacy technician roles are expanding to better support pharmacists. "It is important for pharmacy technicians to be educated through programs designed to address technician-specific responsibilities and knowledge requirements in the pharmacy," said PTCB executive director and CEO Everett McAllister. "PTCB's T-specific CE requirement and the phased reduction in allowable in-service CE hours are both consistent with this goal." 
 
Many CE providers currently offer T-specific CE, and others are expanding their T-specific programs. PTCB will accept any T-specific program provided by an organization accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education, as indicated by a 'T' as the last digit of the course accreditation number. However, PTCB does not require CPhTs to earn their CE hours only from ACPE-accredited providers. To qualify as T-specific, a CE course's objectives must assess or sustain competencies critical to pharmacy technician practice. 
 
PTCB will implement additional Certification Program changes in the future. Changes in recertification requirements will include: decreasing allowable CE hours earned from college courses from 15 to 10 by 2016; and completely phasing out allowable in-service CE hours by 2018. By 2020, PTCB will require new candidates seeking initial certification to successfully complete an American Society of Health-System Pharmacists/ACPE-accredited education program.
 
PTCB's Certification Program changes support and advance improved patient care and safety throughout pharmacy practice. The changes are the result of a PTCB initiative which began with a 2011 summit on future directions for pharmacy technicians. Summit findings, combined with results from two profession-wide surveys, called for decisive changes, the group noted.
 
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PhRMA report: 800 medicines and vaccines in development to treat cancer

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — America’s biopharmaceutical research companies are currently developing nearly 800 new medicines and vaccines for cancer, according to a new report released Monday by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.
 
“In recent decades, we have seen great progress in developing effective cancer treatments that help extend lives, improve quality of life and increase productivity,” said PhRMA president and CEO John Castellani. “Continued research has expanded our knowledge of how cancer develops and how to target medicines for specific cancer types, which has resulted in more effective therapies for patients.”
 
As detailed in the new report, biopharmaceutical research companies continue to explore new avenues to fight cancer, which has been found to be a set of more than 200 unique diseases. Researchers also are identifying ways to use existing medicines, either alone or in combination with other therapies, to treat various types of cancers more effectively than current standards of care. 
 
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for nearly 1-in-4 deaths, according to the American Cancer Society. More than 1.6 million new cancer cases will be diagnosed in 2014 alone, and nearly 600,000 Americans are projected to die from cancer this year.
 
“Although the death rate from cancer has been steadily declining for the past four decades, its toll is still staggering. Despite the complexity of the challenge, researchers at biopharmaceutical companies remain committed to developing new treatment options for patients," Castellani said.
 
Of the 771 medicines and vaccines either in clinical trials or awaiting review by the Food and Drug Administration, there are 98 for lung cancer, 87 for leukemia, 78 for lymphoma, 73 for breast cancer, 56 for skin cancer and 48 for ovarian cancer. 
 
The report highlights how biopharmaceutical research companies are working together and collaborating with academic medical centers, government and non-profit organizations to make progress against cancer a reality. These public- private partnerships help to leverage diversity of thought and experience and reduce potential duplication. The goal is to increase the number of new therapies for patients while reducing the time necessary to develop them.
 
Castellani will discuss the importance of collaborations and commitment of biopharmaceutical researchers to persevere despite scientific challenges and setbacks at the Turning the Tide Against Cancer National Conference on Oct. 9. PhRMA is a sponsor of the conference, which will bring together thought leaders from industry, advocacy organizations, academia and government to discuss the cancer research and care landscape. 
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