HEALTH

Washington, Mo., government votes to move PSE products to Rx-only

BY DSN STAFF

NEW YORK In the short term, it means pharmacists operating out of one of the 12 or so pharmacies in Washington, Mo., will need to see a doctor’s prescription before filling any pseudoephedrine requests.

But the legislation is not likely to stand, especially as it sets a dangerous precedent. Never mind the excessive supply chain and administrative costs that would come with navigating not only federal regulations and 50 state regulations, but thousands of local regulations as well. If this local ordinance were allowed to remain intact, it would mean any local government anywhere could decide what was appropriately sold where based on whatever parameters they felt justified the action. Not in favor of Plan B? Make it a controlled substance. Buy into safety and efficacy concerns around [insert over-the-counter brand here]? Make it so it’s only available by prescription.

More important is the trend toward legislating a law-enforcement issue around the sale of a legitimate, cost-saving OTC allergy/cold remedy by moving it from behind-the-counter to prescription-only. Understandably, it’s a trend that enjoys the full support of law enforcement, agencies that won’t have to expend quite as many limited public resources against methamphetamine lab reduction by nixing pharmacy as a supply source of the precursor ingredient PSE altogether.

The alternative is an electronic tracking system, that can help law enforcement key in on the practice of smurfing in real time. Implementing those systems state wide isn’t cheap, however, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association has offered to defray those costs, at least in California.

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Senate panel votes in favor of healthcare reform bill

BY DSN STAFF

NEW YORK After decades of fruitless efforts, activist lawmakers in a Democratically controlled Congress finally may be on the verge of pushing through one of the most elusive policy goals of the past half-century: a massive reform of the U.S. healthcare system that aims to extend health coverage to most Americans and put a clamp on federal healthcare spending.

 

That bill, the Affordable Health Care Choice Act of 2009, is a long way from passage. Republicans on the Senate HELP Committee object to several key provisions in the bill – including language that would impose higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans to help pay the bill’s estimated trillion-dollar 10-year tab, a new government-run insurance provider to compete with private-sector insurers and a provision that would penalize employers who don’t offer health benefits to their workers – and that opposition is sure to play out when the House of Representatives and the full Senate debate the measure in coming days.

 

 

Nevertheless, even staunch conservative lawmakers acknowledged that the climate for health reform is ripe. Spurred by public alarm over the rising cost of health care and dire projections about the future of Medicare and Medicaid, the Obama administration and the President’s allies in Congress have made overhauling the healthcare system a top legislative priority, and are pushing for fast-track passage of a bill before the end of the current session.

 

 

It’s too soon to tell just what impact the bill would have on some of the biggest issues of concern to retail pharmacy, such as Medicaid reimbursement. But concerns over costs and employer mandates aside, chain and independent pharmacy advocates have found much to like in the Affordable Health Care Choice Act.

 

 

As envisioned by HELP Committee chairman Sen. Edward Kennedy, the bill, if passed in its current form, would advance the concept of pharmacy care, elevate the role of pharmacists as patient-focused community health practitioners and exempt retail pharmacies from accreditation requirements for the sale of durable medical equipment, a cause long sought by pharmacy leaders.

 

 

Needless to say, the bill also would swell the roles of prescription drug customers by expanding affordable coverage to most of the estimated 45 million to 50 million uninsured Americans.

 

 

Among the pharmacy-friendly provisions championed by Kennedy and other supporters of the bill:

  • The establishment of community health teams to set up the “medical home” model of individualized health care for patients – a model that could include retail pharmacies as “homes;”
  • Funding of a pioneering grant program to implement medication therapy management for the treatment of chronic diseases;
  • Greater incentives to spur generic drug switching and the adoption of health information technology;
  • A greater emphasis on disease prevention through healthier lifestyle and nutrition, and closer coordination between health counselors (including pharmacists, presumably) and patients; and
  • The creation of an approval pathway for biogenerics at the Food and Drug Administration.

 

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CVS Caremark to open Customer Care Center

BY Drug Store News Team

NEW YORK Here’s a look at how the future of pharmacy is going to work …

The fact that CVS Caremark is preparing to open its first Pharmacy Customer Care Center is important because it appears as though the two biggest players in pharmacy — the other being Walgreens — are setting their sights on extracting much of the busy work out of the stores in an effort to free up the in-store pharmacy teams to perform more of the medication therapy management, disease management and other more high-touch services that will come to define pharmacy care in the future.

As explained by Larry Merlo, president of CVS/pharmacy, the Woonsocket, R.I.-based pharmacy retailer is opening the new facility and launching the new pharmacy service program to “enhance the service provided to individuals who call our pharmacies, as well as to provide more time for our pharmacy teams to spend serving customers in our stores.”

Sound familiar?

The move is in a similar vein to that of Walgreens’ “POWER” initiative. As previously reported by Drug Store News, POWER is aimed at offloading and centralizing some prescription dispensing duties in Walgreens’ pharmacies. The goal: to ease up pharmacists and workloads, reduce staffing costs and give its pharmacy professionals more time to consult with patients. The workload-balancing project offloads dispensing duties from individual Walgreens pharmacists to centralized processing centers. Company leaders predicted the project will free pharmacists and even pharmacy technicians from some of the mundane dispensing tasks so they can migrate to a broader role in patient oversight, clinical care and integrated health care alongside physicians, PBMs and corporate health plan sponsors.

As of late May, Walgreens’ POWER project had shifted script dispensing functions for more than half the company’s nearly 800 stores in Florida, and some 100 of its 238 stores in Arizona.

It is likely that this is just the tip of the iceberg and that the industry will see more of these types of programs and initiatives as retail pharmacy further digs its heels into the U.S. healthcare system and continues its evolution into a broad-reaching healthcare provider.

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