HEALTH

NACDS cautions Congress on expanding Medicare’s DME bidding program

BY Michael Johnsen

ALEXANDRIA, Va. The National Association of Chain Drug Stores on Wednesday issued a statement to the House of Representatives’ Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, which held a hearing earlier in the morning on the implications for quality, cost and access to Medicare’s competitive bidding program for durable medical equipment.

NACDS recommended to the subcommittee that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services delay expansion of the competitive bidding program until the impact of the program on Medicare beneficiaries’ access to healthcare services and supplies is fully analyzed. In particular, NACDS urged caution in expanding the program to include retail pharmacies and diabetic testing supplies.

“To ensure that community pharmacists continue to play a role in providing quality healthcare services and decreasing medical costs, it is vital that Medicare beneficiaries have continued access to medications and supplies through community retail pharmacies,” NACDS stated. “Pharmacists play a key role in ensuring patients use their supplies in the most proper and meaningful way. Including retail pharmacies in the competitive bidding program will limit the number of options available to beneficiaries. … Beneficiaries should have the continued ability to obtain their medical supplies from pharmacies with which they have a long-standing relationship,” the statement read.

In related news, the National Community Pharmacists Association, the lobbying group which represents the nation’s independent pharmacies, offered three legislative recommendations to the House subcommittee, which included the passage of H.R. 5235 — the Medicare Access to Diabetes Supplies Act — which would preserve seniors’ access to diabetes supplies at community pharmacies by exempting such businesses from the first round of the competitive bidding program. NCPA also added that:

  • Congress must introduce and pass legislation that exempts community pharmacies from any pricing resulting from competitive bidding. Otherwise, pharmacies might be forced to ”terminate sales of diabetes testing supplies and hinder beneficiary access if the prices established under such a program are applied to the community pharmacy market” in the future; and
  • In enacting legislation to address the points above, Congress also should clarify the ability of community pharmacists to deliver these products to homebound seniors and, on a temporary basis, to “snow bird” seniors who spend colder months in warmer climates. CMS’ proposed present definition in this instance of “mail order” as “any item…shipped or delivered to the beneficiaries’ home regardless of the method of delivery,” would block community pharmacies from providing these patient services.

NCPA noted that it has constructively worked with CMS ever since the CBP program was announced and that such efforts will continue.

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Report: San Francisco’s tobacco sales ban to expand to in-store pharmacies

BY Alaric DeArment

SAN FRANCISCO A ban on tobacco sales in San Francisco drug stores soon will grow to include any store that operates a pharmacy, according to published reports.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported Monday that the city would extend its ban to supermarkets and mass merchandisers with pharmacies in addition to drug stores.

In 2008, retail pharmacies and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores opposed the ban because while banning tobacco products in drug stores, the city continued to permit supermarkets and mass merchandisers with pharmacies to sell tobacco products, prompting Walgreens to sue the city over the ban and try to have it overturned on constitutional grounds. City officials reasoned that the exception for drug stores was necessary because of what they described as the contradictory nature of a healthcare establishment selling a harmful product.

Soon after the San Francisco ban passed, Boston enacted a similar law, though the Boston law –– which was made independent of the one in San Francisco –– covered all retailers that operate pharmacies.

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NACDS to FDA advisory committee: Curb DXM abuse without impeding appropriate use

BY Allison Cerra

ALEXANDRIA, Va. As the Food and Drug Administration’s Drug Safety and Risk Management Committee debated Tuesday on ways to curb abuse of cough suppressants containing dextromethorphan, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores testified that the scheduling of dextromethorphan under the federal Controlled Substances Act is not the right solution.

“Dextromethorphan is consumers’ No.1 choice to treat cough. Depriving consumers of the option to self-medicate with dextromethorphan would have substantial public health consequences because cough and cold are extremely prevalent in the U.S. population, affecting the average adult two to four times per year,” NACDS VP regulatory affairs Kevin Nicholson said to the FDA Drug Safety and Risk Management Committee.

NACDS also urged the committee to consider the approach set forth by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., in the Dextromethorphan Abuse Reduction Act of 2009, which would prohibit the sale of dextromethorphan to minors.

“Dextromethorphan is the most common ingredient in over-the-counter cough medicines in the United States,” Nicholson stated. “[The] abuse of dextromethorphan is concentrated primarily among teenagers, and this concentration makes possible a targeted and strategic approach to preventing abuse.”

In addition to working on legislative remedies, the association also has worked with the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Drug Enforcement Administration to help raise awareness of the scourge of medication abuse, particularly among young people.

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