PHARMACY

NCPA, congressmen discuss Medicaid drug reimbursement cuts

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON The National Community Pharmacists Association on Wednesday held a conference call in an attempt to raise awareness around the threat Medicaid generic prescription drug reimbursement cuts, which are based on an average manufacturer price formula, pose to pharmacies and patients.

The cuts, delivered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, would cut payments to retail pharmacies by $11.8 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Joining NCPA on the call were Reps. Marion Berry, D-Ark., and Jerry Moran, R-Kan.

“For many years I have been baffled [about the attitude the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] and that crowd has had toward retail pharmacy,” Berry said. It doesn’t take a genius, he said, to realize that a pharmacy needs to be compensated, at the very least, for the cost actually paid for the pharmaceuticals. And it’s not unreasonable to expect compensation for professional services, Berry added.

“CMS has been, in my opinion, very difficult to deal with on this issue … and unwilling to work with” either retail association leaders or Congress members, Moran added. There are eight counties in Kansas that have no pharmacy at all,” Moran said, and it’s such issues as this that discourages any pharmacist to set up shop in those eight counties.

A federal injunction and a recently expired Congress moratorium have to date delayed implementation of the cuts, which according to NCPA would force some pharmacies to limit participation, drop out of the Medicaid program or even go out of business. John Coster, NCPA SVP government affairs, suggested that these cuts may have greater import across independent pharmacies because of the greater exposure to the Medicaid population. “The average independent fills twice as many Medicaid prescriptions as chain [pharmacies],” he said. And Medicaid reimbursements can represent as much as half of an independent’s business, he added, especially as prescription revenue represents more than 90% of an independent’s business on average.

The House and Senate are presently reconciling two different versions of healthcare reform that include different solutions for restoring portions of the cuts to Medicaid generic prescription drug reimbursements. The House version sets reimbursement at 130% of the weighted average AMP, while the Senate version sets it at no less than 175% of the weighted average AMP.

“Even the [Government Accountability Office] says the reimbursement is below the cost of the medicines for the pharmacies,” Berry said. The House bill is similarly challenging to pharmacies, he added. “The Senate bill is a little bit better but certainly not perfect.”

“[Reimbursement] of 175% [of AMP] is the minimum that we would need,” Coster said, noting that NCPA had been advocating reimbursements as high as 200% to adequately cover costs.

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New report projects sales of Parkinson’s disease drug will reach $500 million

BY Alaric DeArment

WALTHAM, Mass. A drug made by Boehringer Ingelheim for treating Parkinson’s disease could have sales of up to half a billion dollars, according to a new analysis.

According to a report released Tuesday by market research firm Decision Resources, BI’s extended-release formulation of pramipexole will have peak-year sales of between $250 million and $500 million in major pharmaceutical markets. The drug was launched in Europe in 2009 and is expected to enter the market in the United States this year.

In the beginning, according to the report, launches of generic formulations of the immediate-release version of pramipexole and competition from GlaxoSmithKline’s and SkyePharma’s Requip XL (ropinirole CR) and generic versions of immediate-release Requip will put a damper on sales of pramipexole ER. However, physician familiarity with the drug and preference among physicians and patients for once-daily dosing will cause a “significant” increase in sales.

“Given physician comfort in prescribing pramipexole for Parkinson’s disease and the convenience of once-daily dosing that it would offer, we expect that pramipexole ER will take much of pramipexole IR’s patient share,” Decision Resources analyst Sami Fam said. “In the short term, we expect pramipexole ER will lose some patient share to ropinirole CR given that ropinirole CR was the first of the two agents to launch. But over the long term, physicians’ slight preference for pramipexole over ropinirole should help to boost pramipexole ER’s uptake.”

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Report: Weis Markets acquires local Medicine Shoppe pharmacy

BY Michael Johnsen

SUNBURY, Pa. Weis recently acquired a Medicine Shoppe pharmacy in the Binghamton, N.Y., market, local newscaster News Channel 34 (owned by Newport Television) reported early Tuesday morning.

Weis Markets currently has 120 in-store pharmacies at other locations and is considering more at its Broome County locations, the report noted.

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