PHARMACY

Independents renew appeal to Congress for relief from rising card transaction fees

BY Jim Frederick

ALEXANDRIA, Va. Concerned over what they call “exorbitant transaction fees and anticompetitive practices” by credit card companies, independent pharmacy leaders are appealing to Congress for relief.

The appeal comes as the House and Senate work to reconcile their respective financial-reform bills. Amid those negotiations, the National Community Pharmacists Association is urging lawmakers to include in the final legislation “a bipartisan proposal to protect consumers, local pharmacies and other small businesses” from the current fee structure imposed by credit card companies.

That plea came from NCPA SVP government affairs John Coster in a letter to Sens. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., and Richard Shelby, R-Ala., as well as Reps. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and Spencer Bachus, R-Ala. The four serve as the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate Banking and House Financial Services Committees.

“On behalf of independent community pharmacies, NCPA urges you to include section 1079 in the Senate’s amendment to H.R. 4173, The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, on credit and debit card interchange reform in the final conference report,” Coster wrote. “Unnecessarily high interchange fees disproportionately impact small businesses and the customers they serve.”

Pointing out that the amendment “had the bipartisan support of 64 senators,” Coster called it “a common sense approach to addressing the ever-increasing fees on credit card transactions” that would allow small businesses to remain competitive.

The need for relief from “excessive and unreasonable interchange fees” is even more critical “in this current economic environment, where many businesses are struggling just to stay afloat,” he added.

“The Senate provision would simply give the Federal Reserve the authority to develop regulations which would more accurately reflect the cost of processing the transactions,” Coster told lawmakers. “It would also prohibit some of the anticompetitive rules and practices that credit card companies impose on small businesses. For example, many credit card companies prohibit businesses from setting minimum transaction levels. In many cases, it costs a business more in transaction fees than the actual value of the product being purchased,” NCPA’s chief lobbyist asserted in his letter.

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FDA approves Jevtana

BY Alaric DeArment

SILVER SPRING, Md. The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new treatment for advanced prostate cancer, the agency said Thursday.

The FDA announced the approval of Sanofi-Aventis’ Jevtana (cabazitaxel), a chemotherapy drug used with the steroid prednisone. The agency said the drug was the first treatment for advanced, hormone-refractory prostate cancer that has worsened during or after treatment with docetaxel, also a chemotherapy drug used in advanced prostate cancer. Hormone refractory prostate cancer happens when prostate tumors continue to grow despite treatments meant to reduce the body’s production of the male hormone testosterone, which helps prostate tumors grow.

“Patients have few therapeutic options in this disease setting,” FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research Office of Oncology Products director Richard Pazdur said. “FDA was able to review and approve the application for Jevtana in 11 weeks, expediting the availability of this drug to men with prostate cancer.”

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Report: Oregon State Board of Pharmacy declares marijuana as drug with medical use

BY Alaric DeArment

SALEM, Ore. The makers of the 1930s documentary “Reefer Madness” would be furious at the news, but it likely will come as a relief to people with certain diseases and marijuana law-reform advocates.

The Oregon State Board of Pharmacy voted Wednesday to have marijuana classified as a drug with medical use, according to reports from a local TV station. The decision makes the state to reclassify it as such.

Under the decision, marijuana will be known as a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning that it has high potential for abuse but still has medical benefits. Previously — and still in all other states — marijuana was a Schedule I drug, meaning it had no medical benefits.

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