PHARMACY

Walmart offers prescriptions for no upfront cost to Obamacare enrollees

BY Alaric DeArment

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Walmart is offering prescriptions at no upfront cost to patients who enroll in the public health insurance marketplace, the mass-merchandise retailer said.

In a New Year’s Eve announcement, the retailer said that through the end of January, it would fill up to a 30-day supply of prescriptions with no upfront cost to customers who have enrolled in the marketplace, but have not yet received their plan identification information from their insurance providers. Pharmacists at the stores will be able to help patients verify enrollment and answer questions about the new insurance plans.

"At Walmart, we are committed to offering our customers affordable ways to stay healthy, including access to their medications," Walmart SVP health and wellness John Agwunobi said. "Customers who have signed up for the public health exchanges should be able to access their benefits immediately."

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act took full effect Wednesday as the new year began. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 2.1 million people have enrolled in a private health insurance plan through the federal and state-based marketplaces, but due to glitches in the marketplaces early on, that’s more than 1 million less than the number that had been expected. According to the Congressional Budget Office, it’s hoped about 7 million people will be enrolled this year.

 

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Eisai launches new epilepsy drug

BY Alaric DeArment

WOODCLIFF LAKE, N.J. — Drug maker Eisai will make a new epilepsy drug available in the United States starting on Monday, the company said Thursday.

Fycompa (perampanel) will be available to patients aged 12 and older as an add-on therapy for partial-onset seizures. The drug, which is scheduled by the Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule III controlled substance, received Food and Drug Administration approval in October 2012. The drug’s label carries a boxed warning, the strongest warning a drug can have, due to the risk of serious psychiatric and behavioral side effects.

"The availability of Fycompa gives physicians an important new adjunctive treatment option for the care of those patients whose seizures are not controlled by their current medication," Eisai Product Creation Systems president for neuroscience and general medicine Lynn Kramer said.

 

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Merck, Health Management Resources Corp. partner to form weight-management company

BY Alaric DeArment

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. — Drug maker Merck is starting a new business designed to provide weight-management intervention services to employers, patients and healthcare professionals, the company said.

Merck announced the launch of HMR Weight Management Services Corp., which it said would provide weight-management interventions that combine a structured diet, behavior coaching and monitoring and physical activity to aid weight loss. Merck is working with Boston-based Health Management Resources Corp. to launch the new subsidiary, though HMR will continue to operate as an independent company.

"We’re excited to provide scalable weight-management interventions based on approaches that have shown consistent results in clinical trials and that have been effective in the battle against obesity," said Len Tacconi, who will head the new company as president.

HMR provides its programs through a network of licensed clinics in medical and academic centers and a remote-delivery program called Health Solutions at Home; according to a clinical study of the program, the median weight loss for participants was 23 pounds after 12 weeks, Merck said.

 

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