PHARMACY

Senate passes online pharmacy act; bill awaits Bush’s pen to become law

BY Jim Frederick

WASHINGTON Retail pharmacy groups are hailing passage in the U.S. Senate of legislation to clamp down on illegal online pharmacies, and awaiting word that the bill will clear a final hurdle to become law: a signature by the president.

The Senate Tuesday approved the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008 in a bid to clamp down on the illegal sale, abuse and trafficking of prescription drugs over the Internet. The bill, which passed the House of Representatives Sept. 23, would require a valid prescription for the purchase or distribution of any prescription drug over the Internet, issued by a prescribing physician or other qualified professional who personally has examined the patient. However, it would exempt remote-site pharmacies that operate under approved telemedicine procedures.

Michele Leonhart, acting administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, hailed Congressional passage of the online pharmacy bill. “This landmark piece of legislation will bring rogue pharmacy operators out of the shadows by establishing a clear standard for legitimate online pharmaceutical sales,” she yesterday. “The legislation will allow customers to know they are doing business with a?trusted, legitimate pharmacy, and give law enforcement the tools we need to identify illegitimate online pharmacies.”

Added Stephen Giroux, president of the National Community Pharmacists Association and an independent pharmacy owner in upstate New York, “There are just some services that should not be available online. This legislation to clamp down on illegal online operators is the first step in the right direction.”

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Independent pharmacy organization backs insurance coverage relief bill

BY Jim Frederick

ALEXANDRIA, Va. The National Community Pharmacists Association has joined with other groups representing smaller-scale employers to back new federal legislation that could ease the health insurance cost burdens on smaller businesses.

NCPA, the nation’s largest independent pharmacy organization, yesterday announced its endorsement of H.R. 6582, the Small Business Cooperative for Health Care Options to Improve Coverage for Employees [CHOICE] Act of 2008. The bill, introduced by U.S. House Small Business Committee chair Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., with support from both parties, is aimed at keeping smaller employers from falling prey to steadily rising health care and insurance costs.

To do so, the CHOICE bill creates private, voluntary purchasing cooperatives established under state insurance laws to provide excess claims insurance coverage to participating small businesses. The bill allows those employers to pool health risks over a larger number of insured plan participants, thus reducing costs and, ultimately, premiums.

H.R. 6582 also provides a refundable tax credit to small employers who purchase health insurance for their employees through the cooperative.

“With the cost of health insurance for small businesses rising 80 percent in the past eight years, the time for action has clearly arrived,” responded NCPA executive vice president and chief executive officer Bruce Roberts. The CHOICE bill, he added, “expands access to high-quality, affordable health insurance access for American small businesses and the self-employed. This bill provides the common-sense solutions to improve economic growth and productivity by promoting a healthier work force.”

Among other groups supporting the legislation: the American Optometric Association, American Rental Association, Coca-Cola Bottlers’ Association, Computing Technology Industry Association, International Franchise Association, National Association for Self-Employed, National Association of Home Builders, National Association of Realtors, National Black Chamber of Commerce, National Community Pharmacists Association, National Funeral Directors Association, National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, National Restaurant Association, National Roofing Contractors Association, National Utility Contractors Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, and Women in Public Policy.

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No connection between Lou Gehrig’s disease and statins, FDA says

BY Alaric DeArment

WASHINGTON Cholesterol-lowering drugs do not increase the risk of Lou Gehrig’s disease, an analysis by the Food and Drug Administration has found.

The analysis, reported Monday in the journal Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety, used data from 41 long-term controlled clinical trials involving statins. The FDA conducted the analysis after receiving an unusually large number of reports of Lou Gehrig’s disease in patients using the drugs in its Adverse Event Reporting System, but did not find an increase in the number of statin patients with the disease compared with those taking a placebo.

“The FDA’s review, which began in 2007, is an example of the agency working to analyze products [throughout their lifecycle] to keep healthcare professionals and patients informed of new and emerging safety data,” said Dr. Mark Avignan, director of the Division of Pharmacovigilance I at the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

Lou Gehrig’s disease is the common name for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. It causes a gradual weakening of the muscles and impairment of speech ability.

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