Monthly Archives: August 2011

Pharmacy Industry News: Hero Health Hire Summit Unites Leaders to Promote Employment of Wounded Warriors

Hero Health Hire Summit Unites Leaders to Promote Employment of Wounded Warriors

Each month, tens of thousands of “Wounded Warriors” — brave men and women in our military who have been injured or become ill during service — transition out of the military only to struggle in the civilian workforce. These men and women possess analytical, problem-solving and team work skills that, given the proper support, can translate into the desirable skills for the business world.

The health care industry — including insurers, health plans, pharmaceutical companies, device manufacturers and hospital networks — is considered the fastest growing industry in our economy, requiring talented individuals to help meet multi-generational health care needs. This industry is also uniquely positioned to understand and support the needs of our nation’s Wounded Warriors.

Magellan Health Services is hosting the Hero Health Hire initiative to serve as a catalyst for bringing together Wounded Warriors seeking meaningful, sustainable employment and health care organizations committed to hiring them and supporting their transition into the workforce. Building on the collective wisdom and commitment from health care organizations across the U.S., Hero Health Hire seeks to create a sustainable infrastructure in the nation’s businesses to be able to recruit, train, and retain Wounded Warriors in our work force. Organizations committing to the Hero Health Hire program are dedicated to recruiting Wounded Warriors, creating a support system to transition them into the workforce and help them reach their goals, and providing the resources they need to become successful.

The 2011 Hero Health Hire Employment Summit will unite health care industry, government and military community leaders to discuss the challenges facing Wounded Warriors, ways to the support them in their transition and the next steps that the health care industry can take to support this group of brave men and women.

Mexican pharmacy online no prescription

Pharmacy of the Future: Rexall Rolls Out Next-Generation Prototype

An afternoon trip to the pharmacy isn’t what it used to be. From prescribing medications to injections, the traditional notion of a Pharmacist is changing and moving our most-trusted health care provider* from the back of the counter to the forefront of the health care team. Rexall’s “pharmacy first” philosophy is taking the industry by storm with the national rollout of its next-generation, new pharmacy concept: the Rexall Healthy Living Store. The seventh prototype in Canada opened last weekend on Saturday, June 18, 2011 at 2241 Louie Drive in Westbank, British Columbia.

“The scope of practice for Pharmacists is rapidly changing at the same time across the country and is shifting the pharmacy service model,” said Andy Giancamilli, CEO, Rexall. “Our next-generation Rexall healthy living prototype has a total wellness approach that’s rooted in the valuable role of the Pharmacist as a vital member of the health care team. We’re here when you are sick or managing a chronic condition with expanded patient-focused services, and we are also making a great investment in helping you prevent illness with tools meant to empower customers to lead healthier lives. This is the future of pharmacy.”

In Rexall’s Healthy Living stores, Rexall Pharmacists are creating special pharmacist/patient relationships by anchoring an expanded team and a host of new and unique tools and services that shift the entire store’s focus to helping customers better manage their health both through preventative strategies and treatment.

Meet The New Recruits: Healthy Living Advisors & Derm Consultants
Imagine if there was someone readily available to help navigate the increasingly overwhelming vitamin and supplements aisle. Or help filter through the massive amount of health information available, or even arrange the walking group customers always wanted to join, all free-of-charge? Enter the Healthy Living Advisor, Rexall’s newest team member. Helping customers prioritize and better understand the assortment of more than 15,000 products available to meet their health needs, the Healthy Living Advisor functions as the right hand and support to the pharmacy by allowing the Pharmacist to spend more time with patients on primary care and also making sure that there is a referral to the pharmacist when needed. Completely dedicated to helping a customer get the most out of the store’s services and products, Healthy Living Advisors bring expertise in fields such as nutrition, fitness and kinesiology, as well as extensive product and health training to Rexall Healthy Living stores.

Rounding out the expanded team is the Derm Consultant, whose expertise assists patients in navigating Rexall’s impressive skincare assortment; 156% more skincare products than a traditional pharmacy from niche cosmoceuticals and dermatological products to expanded everyday skincare lines. The skin is the body’s largest organ and Rexall’s focus on skin health is immediately apparent upon walking through the doors. The Derm Consultant helps determine customers’ skincare needs and makes recommendations about maintenance, treatment and regimens to optimize skin health. A Dermo Analyzer is available onsite to assess hydration and skin type, as well as the effects of the sun – diagnosis allows for a personalized skincare regimen to be developed and if more critical skin conditions are identified, the Derm Consultant works collaboratively with the Pharmacist to find the right solution or develop a plan of action.

Together, the Pharmacist, the Rexall Healthy Living Advisor, and Derm Consultant are an expanded pharmacy team fusing a unique combination of health services to help Canadians feel their best.

Testing 1, 2, 3
In response to what the Pharmacist sees and hears from patients, and combined with extensive research and analysis of the most pressing health issues in Canada, Rexall is focusing on the following areas of critical interest in its Healthy Living stores: digestion and food intolerances, high blood pressure, and smoking and lung health.

Enhanced in-store tests offered at Rexall include:
Food Smart Hemocode detects food intolerances and sensitivities – approximately 30% of Canadians suffer from food intolerance and many are not aware that certain food and additives are the cause of their symptoms;
BPro measures blood pressure directly at the base of the aorta and is analyzed by a cardiologist – high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, affects one in five Canadians, is the number one risk factor for stroke and a major risk factor for heart disease, as well as the leading cause of death among women in Canada;
Lung Age measures the strength of a patient’s breath against their age and can help to diagnose illnesses such as lung disease and emphysema – a recent study revealed that smokers who knew their lung age were twice as likely to quit smoking.

Our Patients’ Best Interests At Heart
All Rexall Healthy Living stores include a Healthy Living Terminal, an innovative tool running on Apple technology that assists customers obtain relevant and accurate health information on various health topics with just one touch. Located at the Healthy Living Advisor Station, the oversized touch screen is not found in any other pharmacy and provides easy sourcing of information on products, symptoms, illness, treatment, disease management, prevention and more. Moving forward, Rexall plans to introduce text-based prescription reminders; yet another example of paving the way with innovative technology with its patients’ best interests at heart.

Health information and messages cleverly engage customers and patients with more than 280 helpful reminders and tips located throughout the store, including those in the Healthy Living zone – boasting an extensive assortment of vitamins and nutritional products, supplements and sports nutrition, Rexall’s Healthy State Wall keeps relevant product and information together in key categories including diabetes, women’s essentials and seasonal health topics. There is also a resource centre large enough for group health seminars and community health groups.

An expanded pharmacy team and a clear commitment to what it means to be a partner in health care all function to take the mystery out of the pharmacy and motivate Canadians to live healthier lives with the help of Rexall’s new Healthy Living stores. “We are committed to building the world’s best pharmacy for our patients with the support of our dedicated team,” says Giancamilli. “Consumers can expect to see continued growth, state-of-the-art technology, services and offerings at all new and existing Rexall pharmacies as the company heads into the future.”

After 23 years at Upper Darby site, Shadeland Pharmacy is set to close doors

A week before the closing of the Shadeland Pharmacy, pharmacist Marc Alch was on the telephone calling hundreds of his customers so they would hear it from him firsthand.

“I didn’t want it to be a shock,” he said.

This personal service and the connections Alch and his employees made with their customers marked his 23 years at the neighborhood pharmacy at Shadeland Avenue and Garrett Road.

“Closing the store is the end of an era in this neighborhood,” said Alch’s wife, Sandy.

After more than two decades, Marc Alch explained why he decided to close his doors permanently Tuesday.

“I still wanted to go out while I was on top,” he said. “That was the best thing to do.”

Plus, he wanted to spend more time with his family and two grandchildren.

He’s not leaving the industry altogether. He’ll be a part-time presence at the Rite Aid on Lansdowne Avenue, across from the Bond Shopping Center.

Yet the Shadeland Pharmacy will retain fond memories for Alch.

“Wow!” he said they’d say. “This would be an awesome store.”

So, when it became available in 1988, he went for the 1,600-square-foot shop and opened his business on Sept. 14 of that year.

When he opened it, Alch had a specific goal in mind.

“What I always felt in my store was I was going to give everybody personalized service,” he said.

People would call him specifically to find out about different medications.

About 100 high school students over the years have held summer jobs at Shadeland.

And, Alch even tried to make it easier for the medicine to go down by including a Dum Dum lollipop in every prescription bag.

He said it started by giving parents something to give their kids for taking their medicine. And, to be fair, he even handed them to siblings.

Adults got the sweet in their bag, too, although they weren’t always as appreciative.

Over the years, he guessed he handed out about a million.

Last week, customers granted him well wishes.

“I just wanted to wish you luck,” Rita Froeder, a 44-year Drexel Hill resident, said to Alch.

“If I can do anything for you, let me know,” he said.

Froeder said Alch has assisted her with informing her about the side effects of her various medications.

“It’s terrific,” she said of Shadeland. “He’s very helpful with questions.”

Although the store focused solely on medicines when Alch opened, in the time since he’s been there, he’s added cards, gifts and groceries.

For some time, Sandy Alch laughed about the wild-haired doll, “We were troll headquarters.”

Marc Alch remembered times when his daughters, Lori and Shari, would visit him at the store.

Alch was also grateful for his seven full-time and one part-time employees and was thankful for the bond he’s had with his patrons.

“Sure, there was a lot of aggravation with the insurance companies but what business doesn’t have aggravation?” he said. “We’ve taken care of generations. We’ve loved it.”

To his customers, he had some parting words:

“Thank you for all the love and support throughout the past 23 years and thank you for making us the ‘Friendly Family Pharmacy.’”

Richard Mazzucchi – Positive Point: Wally supports excessive drug industry profits

As a relatively low-income American now living largely upon Social Security disability benefits since my pension has not yet kicked in I have become a very frugal shopper, always seeking the lowest prices for necessities. Like millions of Americans I have found great economies available by ordering my prescription medications from Canadian pharmacies. One of my medications is not available in the U.S. in a generic form with the particular dosage and extended relief formulations. While locally available to the rest of the world at a cost of $70 per month, U.S. pharmacies charge is excess of $370. Another of my less urgent medications runs $90 per month from U.S. sources versus less than $30/month through my Canadian pharmacy of choice.

Not surprisingly, U.S. pharmaceutical industry forces are at work to make it illegal, if not impossible, for Americans to import their medications. Consequently I took the time to ask our U.S. Congressional representative Wally Herger to help support my cause, believing that as a staunch Republican he would support my quest to keep the federal government from meddling in my medical affairs. I really thought this was one area that I could count on Wally’s help, but much to my chagrin, he continues to bat 0 when it comes to seeing things my way. Unfortunately it appears to me that he is more beholden to the U.S. pharmaceutical industry than he is to the financial realities of his
constituents, particularly those that suffer from illness and are dependent upon Medicare and Medical for their health. Optional insurance policies offered me no relief either.

Below I present the unedited content of his letter to me on this matter:

“Thank you for contacting me regarding the re-importation of prescription drugs from Canada and other countries. I appreciate your taking the time to contact me regarding this very important issue. Like you, I am very concerned about the high cost of prescription drugs. While innovative therapies and new “wonder drugs” save more lives every year, high drug costs certainly impose a heavy burden on American consumers, especially seniors.

I am concerned, however, that many of the proposals to allow the re-importation of prescription drugs would subject American consumers to unacceptable health risks. For this reason, I supported a provision in the 2003 Medicare prescription drug law allowing for the re-importation of pharmaceuticals from Canada only when the Food and Drug Administration has certified that these drugs can be imported safely.

Americans deserve to have the confidence and peace of mind that comes from knowing that a medically necessary drug has not been tampered with or adulterated in some fashion. While Americans largely take for granted the safety of their medications today, this could change should our nation open its borders to foreign drugs.

Additionally, many have raised concerns that wholesale re-importation of prescription drugs from abroad would effectively impose foreign price controls on drugs here at home. Canada, along with many countries in Europe and throughout the world, has socialized medicine, allowing citizens to buy drugs at cheaper prices. This may sound appealing, but experience in these countries has demonstrated that with cheaper drugs comes rationed care and less access to medications, making care less effective and endangering lives.

There are serious concerns that price controls for prescription drugs, like the ones in Canada, stifle innovation and ultimately result in the development of fewer life-saving medications. It would be incredibly irresponsible of policymakers in Washington to advance proposals that might delay the development of the next cancer, AIDS, or Alzheimer’s breakthrough. And although expensive in the short term, new prescription drugs save money in the long run by keeping people healthy and out of the hospital.

While there is certainly the need for vast improvement in the prescription drug market, I do not believe that wholesale drug re-importation – without safeguards – is the answer. Please rest assured that as Congress considers ways to make prescription drugs more affordable, I will be sure to keep your views in mind.”

To low-income Americans, Wally Herger’s concerns about pharmaceutical innovation and safeguards are nothing but lame defenses for his support of excessive drug industry profits.

Pharmacy Industry News: Walgreens discontinues negotiations; PBM Express Scripts shocked

Walgreens discontinues negotiations; PBM Express Scripts shocked

After Walgreens made its contract dispute with Express Scripts public onTuesday morning, the pharmacy benefit manager stated it is open to continued negotiations with Walgreens.

“In these challenging economic times, it is critical that we all work together to keep medicines affordable and accessible,” Express Scripts’ chairman and CEO George Paz said. “It is shocking to us that Walgreens would back away from the table with six months to go in the current agreement, especially considering that negotiations are part of the normal course of business.”

In response to the news, Credit Suisse research analyst Ed Kelly said that the general consensus is that the issues will be settled.

“Walgreens is once again fighting to protect the longer-term profitability of its pharmacy business, similar to the dispute with CVS Caremark last year,” Kelly wrote in a research note released Wednesday morning. “We believe the company’s dispute with Express Scripts will be resolved shortly, as the lack of a deal would clearly harm both companies.”

If renewed negotiations don’t materialize, the parting of the ways between Walgreens and Express Scripts would have an estimated 50 cents per share impact on Walgreens’ earnings, Kelly noted, and Express Scripts would be placed at a competitive disadvantage, versus other PBMs without the almost 8,000 Walgreens and Duane Reade pharmacy locations in its network.

Credit Suisse maintained its “Outperform” rating for Walgreens, suggesting that investors taking advantage of any volatility with stock prices now should reap the benefits by the first quarter of 2012 if Walgreens hits current earnings projections.

In its statement, Express Scripts challenged Walgreens’ assertion that the proposed reimbursement rates were below the published industry average cost to provide each prescription. “Over the next three years, the costs of non-specialty branded medications are projected to increase approximately 10% per year [and] more than 30% over three years, the costs of branded specialty medications are projected to increase more than 14% per year [and] nearly 50% over three years, and more than $60 billion worth of branded medications will lose patent protection, opening the door to more affordable generic alternatives,” Paz stated.

However, the PBM is drawing its own line in the sand in preparing to continue on without Walgreens. “On average, another pharmacy within the Express Scripts network is within one-half mile of a Walgreens pharmacy. Even without Walgreens in our network, we meet all client guarantees for access.”

Guild warned against seeking change to pharmacy award

Plans to get legislation changed to enable pharmacy owners to employ high-school students for minimum shifts of 1.5 hours will be fought, pharmacy employee union, the Pharmacy Division of APMESA (PDA) believes.

A PDA spokesperson told Pharmacy News that the Pharmacy Guild of Australia’s previous arguments that community pharmacy was not part of the retail industry would be a significant stumbling block in having the Pharmacy Industry Award changed to match the amended retail sector award.

Alliance Data’s LoyaltyOne Business Signs Long-Term Renewal With Top-Ten AIR MILES® Sponsor, The Jean Coutu Group; Quebec’s Drugstore Retail Leader and One of Canada’s Leading Pharmacy Chains

PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — Alliance Data Systems Corporation ADS
-0.26% , a leading
provider of loyalty and marketing solutions derived from transaction-rich data, announced that its Canadian coalition loyalty business has signed a long-term renewal with The Jean Coutu Group (PJC) Inc. CA:PJC.A
-0.09% .
The multi-year agreement provides for The Jean Coutu Group to remain a sponsor in LoyaltyOne’s AIR MILES® Reward Program as the exclusive pharmacy retailer in Quebec. Jean Coutu has been a sponsor in the program since 2003.

The Jean Coutu Group is the franchisor of one of the leading pharmacy chains in Canada with 389 franchised stores in Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick under the banners PJC Jean Coutu, PJC Clinique, PJC Jean Coutu Sante and PJC Jean Coutu Sante Beaute. For Fiscal 2011, revenues were (CDN) $2.598 billion.

The AIR MILES® Reward Program is Canada’s premier coalition loyalty program, with approximately two-thirds of Canadian households actively collecting reward miles. AIR MILES collectors earn reward miles at more than 100 leading brand-name sponsors representing thousands of retail and service locations across Canada. AIR MILES reward miles can be redeemed for more than 1,200 different rewards, such as travel, movie passes, entertainment attractions, and electronic merchandise.

“A significant sponsor in our loyalty coalition, Jean Coutu’s continued focus on ensuring marketing concepts are industry leading and meet customer expectations has provided it with a competitive advantage in the retail pharmacy category and continues to have a positive impact on revenues and customer loyalty,” said Bryan Pearson, president of LoyaltyOne. “With anticipated increases in consumer spending on pharmacy, health-related and beauty products, we will continue to work closely with Jean Coutu to design and implement targeted consumer marketing initiatives that grow network stores sales and increase wholesaler revenue and reward miles issuance.”

“Not only does the AIR MILES Program allow us to attract customers and ensure their loyalty, but it is also a source of information on our customers and their purchasing profiles,” said Alain Lafortune, executive vice president, Purchasing and Marketing, The Jean Coutu Group. “This strategic marketing tool allows us to differentiate ourselves through targeted marketing initiatives but also to adapt our strategies in accordance to the real and unique purchasing profiles of our customers.”

About The Jean Coutu Group

The Jean Coutu Group is one of the most trusted names in Canadian pharmacy retailing. The Company operates a network of 389 franchised stores in Canada located in the provinces of Quebec, New Brunswick and Ontario under the banners of PJC Jean Coutu, PJC Clinique, PJC Sante and PJC Sante Beaute, and employs more than 18,000 people. Furthermore, as of December 2007, the Jean Coutu Group owns Pro Doc Ltd (“Pro Doc”), a Quebec-based subsidiary and manufacturer of generic drugs. The Company also holds a significant interest in Rite Aid Corporation (“Rite Aid”) a national chain of drugstores in the United States with nearly 4,700 drugstores in 31 states and the District of Columbia.

About Alliance Data

Alliance Data® ADS
-0.26% and its combined businesses is North America’s largest and
most comprehensive provider of transaction-based, data-driven marketing and loyalty solutions serving large, consumer-based industries. The Company creates and deploys customized solutions, enhancing the critical customer marketing experience; the result is measurably changing consumer behavior while driving business growth and profitability for some of today’s most recognizable brands. Alliance Data helps its clients create and increase customer loyalty through solutions that engage millions of customers each day across multiple touch points using traditional, digital, mobile and other emerging technologies. Headquartered in Dallas, Alliance Data employs approximately 8,500 associates at more than 50 locations worldwide.

Alliance Data is a leading provider of marketing-driven credit solutions, and is the parent company of Epsilon®, a leading provider of multi-channel, data-driven technologies and marketing services, and LoyaltyOne®, which owns and operates the AIR MILES® Reward Program, Canada’s premier coalition loyalty program. For more information about the company, visit our web site, , or you can follow us on Twitter at .

Alliance Data’s Safe Harbor Statement/Forward Looking Statements

This release may contain forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. Such statements may use words such as “anticipate,” “believe,” “estimate,” “expect,” “intend,” “predict,” “project” and similar expressions as they relate to us or our management. When we make forward-looking statements, we are basing them on our management’s beliefs and assumptions, using information currently available to us. Although we believe that the expectations reflected in the forward-looking statements are reasonable, these forward-looking statements are subject to risks, uncertainties and assumptions, including the anticipated effects of the CARD Act, potential effects of the Epsilon data incident, and those discussed in our filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

If one or more of these or other risks or uncertainties materialize, or if our underlying assumptions prove to be incorrect, actual results may vary materially from what we projected. Any forward-looking statements contained in this presentation reflect our current views with respect to future events and are subject to these and other risks, uncertainties and assumptions relating to our operations, results of operations, growth strategy and liquidity. We have no intention, and disclaim any obligation, to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future results or otherwise.

“Safe Harbor” Statement under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995: Statements in this presentation regarding Alliance Data Systems Corporation’s business which are not historical facts are “forward-looking statements” that involve risks and uncertainties. For a discussion of such risks and uncertainties, which could cause actual results to differ from those contained in the forward-looking statements, see “Risk Factors” in the Company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the most recently ended fiscal year. Risk factors may be updated in Item 1A in each of the Company’s Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q for each quarterly period subsequent to the Company’s most recent Form 10-K.

Pharmacy Industry News: Pharmacists catch up on MBA business know-how

Pharmacists catch up on MBA business know-how

The Kenan-Flagler school at UNC is the latest business school to take advantage of its university ties in launching a joint degree with another university department. While most business schools work with the engineering or medical departments, however, the North Carolina school will teach a dual-degree programme with the school of pharmacy.

The PharmD/MBA degree, which will be taught by professors at Kenan-Flagler and the Eshelman school of Pharmacy, will enable participants to earn both a doctorate in pharmacy and an MBA in five years. According to UNC, over the past two years, between 10 and 20 per cent of the incoming pharmacy class have expressed an interest in such a dual degree. Students will study pharmacy for two years then then study one year full-time in the MBA programme, followed by a combination of courses in the two schools in year four. The fifth year is spent in pharmacy-practice rotations.

Jim Dean, dean of Kenan-Flagler, says the programme will address the growing need in the healthcare industry for people who can make effective clinical, fiscal and managerial decisions. Graduates are expected to work in the pharmaceutical industry, healthcare management or as entrepreneurs.

Pharmacy OneSource Announces Free Webinar On Optimizing Core Measures

Implementing Pharmacist-Driven Clinical Programs to Enhance CMS Quality Scores

Wolters Kluwer Health announced recently that Pharmacy OneSource, software-as-a-service provider of Sentri7, a clinical surveillance, documentation and reporting application, is hosting a complimentary webinar with Youbin Kim and Sam Ho, from Riverside County Regional Medical Center, on “Optimizing Core Measures Performance through Pharmacist-Driven Programs.”

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and The Joint Commission worked together to align the measure specifications for Quality Improvement Organizations (QIO). Now CMS links reimbursement to the hospital quality-of-care data.

Kim, PharmD and Ho, PharmD, will describe various pharmacist-driven clinical programs at Riverside County Regional Medical Center that have enhanced the quality of patient care, improved CMS Core Measures, and provided safe use of medications with financial justifications.

Optimizing Core Measures Performance through Pharmacist-Driven Programs
DATE: Wednesday, June 29, 2011
TIME: 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM EST

About the Presenters: Dr. Youbin Kim received her Doctorate of Pharmacy from Butler University College of Pharmacy in 2005. Dr. Kim is the vice-chair of Clinical Pharmacy Specialty Programs at Riverside County Regional Medical Center. She is the lead pharmacist in pharmacist-driven core measures programs, specifically heart failure and stroke. Currently, RCRMC Clinical Pharmacy Specialty Programs offer various clinical programs including anticoagulation, antibiotic surveillance, core-measures, vaccination, oncology, and pharmacist-driven sepsis program.

Dr. Sam Ho received his Doctorate of Pharmacy from USC School of Pharmacy in 2010 and is dedicated to the Riverside County Regional Medical Center as the Director of Pharmacy Management Projects. Dr. Ho has special interests in health care administration, policy planning, and business management. He is planning a career in changing the image of pharmacy and pushing the profession forward through involvement in local, state, and national health care agencies. Currently, he is also pursuing a graduate degree for a Masters of Health Administration at USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development.

About Pharmacy OneSource
Pharmacy OneSource is healthcare’s #1 Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) provider. Our more than 100 innovative team members provide best-in-class, SaaS solutions to current and future challenges within health-systems worldwide. Our SaaS solutions contribute to swift and safe healthcare through earlier, easier and better access to data. More than 1,300 healthcare organizations worldwide utilize our HIPAA compliant web-based services.

Legislature poised to repeal prescription protection law

Maine could soon shed a 2003 law designed to protect consumers from high drug costs and fraud perpetrated by pharmacy benefit managers, the corporate middlemen between insurance providers and employers and pharmaceutical companies and wholesalers.

Pharmacy benefit managers are contracted by employers who provide health insurance to process and pay prescription drug claims.

In two votes that broke mostly along party lines, the Republican-controlled Legislature gave preliminary approval to repeal the law, arguing that it was unnecessary and increased patient drug costs.

Rep. Meredith Strang Burgess, R-Cumberland, sponsored the bill that repeals the law. She said the Maine Attorney General’s Office could handle oversight of the industry.

During Wednesday’s debate in the House of Representatives, Strang Burgess said that while the protections and transparency in Maine law sounded like a good idea, the additional regulation had discouraged pharmacy benefit managers from doing business here.

She said the result was less competition and higher drug prices.

But opponents said repealing the law would remove a host of protections for consumers and independent pharmacies.

They say the existing law prevents benefit managers from switching patients to more expensive drugs and protects them from co-payments when the actual drug price is cheaper.

The law also requires benefit managers to promptly pay independent pharmacies and to negotiate drug prices in good faith.

Several independent pharmacies testified against the repeal bill in the public hearing.

Repeal proponents included the PBM industry. The Maine Merchants Association also favored the bill. The association said the current law hamstrung employers attempting to negotiate contracts with PBMs.

However, Rep. Sharon Treat, D-Hallowell, wondered why the Legislature would want to repeal a law that established “predatory pricing protections.”

Treat noted that 25 other states regulate PBMs. She acknowledged that Maine’s law was one of the most comprehensive.

Several Democrats joined the Republican majority supporting LD 1116 in the House.

The Senate vote, 21-14, broke along party lines with Sen. Richard Woodbury, U-Yarmouth, voting with the Democratic minority.

Sen. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, attempted to introduce an amendment that would prohibit public or quasi-municipal agencies from contracting with a PBM if the company had committed fraud or had been penalized $500,000 by a state or federal agency within the previous three years of the contract.

Craven said she couldn’t imagine why other senators would want the state or another public agency to contract with a PBM that had been fined for misconduct.

Craven’s amendment was tabled by Republican leaders.

The pharmacy benefit managers industry has paid $371 million in damages over the past several years to several states for false claims, kickbacks and overcharging patients for generic drugs.

Maine’s law regulating PBMs was adopted eight years ago at the urging of former Maine Attorney General Steven Rowe. He believed providers in the largely unregulated industry should register with the state and disclose their dealings with pharmaceutical companies, including kickbacks to PBMs for promoting certain drugs, before doing business here.

The law was precipitated by a lawsuit against Medco Health Solutions, a PBM sued by Maine and 19 other states for violating consumer protection and mail fraud laws for “drug-switching,” the practice of changing patients’ drug prescriptions to similar drugs of therapeutic value but that pay the benefit managers higher rebates.

Medco, a New Jersey-based company, denied any wrongdoing but paid $29.3 million in a 2004 settlement. It also agreed to disclose the rebates it received from pharmaceutical companies.

The PBM industry, which manages the pharmacy benefits of more than 95 percent of Americans with health insurance, has fought the Maine law for years and succeeded in temporarily delaying its implementation in 2004.

The current repeal bill was backed by Medco, the company involved in the 2004 lawsuit, CVS Caremark and the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association. The PCMA represents the largest PBMs, including Medco, CVS, AdvancePCS and Express Scripts.

Two of those companies were active in the 2010 election. Medco donated more than $25,000 to candidates and political-action committees, as well as to Gov. Paul LePage. The contributions were evenly distributed between Democrats and Republicans, with significant portions going to leadership PACs.

TTC Study Points to Increasing Clinical Trial Costs in New Geographies

While the costs for all clinical trial phases are highest in the United States and the United Kingdom, these costs are rapidly increasing in new geographies. For Phase II-III Clinical Trials (2008-2009), cost per patient increases for the United States and Western Europe (excluding the UK) have averaged 3% to 4% annually. In contrast, clinical grants in the new geographies are increasing at rates over 14%.

These rising overhead rates continue to challenge pharmaceutical professionals in managing clinical studies. While the relative cost of conducting a clinical trial in a specific geography is not the sole driver in deciding where to establish study sites, relative costs do play an important role.

TTC’s GrantPlan® Database – created in association with users from pharmaceutical companies and clinical sites around the world – offers the data companies need to evaluate overhead costs and plan for other critical components they face in developing clinical grants.

News Facts:
In today’s research and development efforts, companies must know how to manage costs effectively, particularly in new geographies. Developing a drug now requires about $1 billion and clinical development costs comprise the bulk of this expense. GrantPlan® ensures that you are paying the appropriate amount and decreases the time you need to develop an investigator grant budget.
While per patient clinical grant fees vary by country, costs also vary between the different clinical sites within a particular country. The amount paid to a site represents a strategic decision for every company. GrantPlan® provides an understanding of the fair market range for every line item of the clinical grant.
Each year, drawing upon data in the GrantPlan database, TTC reports on the relative costs of clinical grants around the world. GrantPlan® subscribers conduct more than 76% of all the commercial clinical trials.
GrantPlan® covers the key components of grant costs, such as individual procedures, overhead rates, other direct costs, and site costs, including hourly rates, pharmacy fees, advertising fees and more.
GrantPlan® gives contract negotiation teams the ability to begin grant negotiations with enhanced data. GrantPlan® collects data from clinical studies in 60 countries from over 100 GrantPlan subscribers.

“Specifically, countries in close geographic proximity to Western Europe often have more experience in conducting clinical trials – and their cost structures are beginning to resemble those of the west accordingly. The Czech Republic is illustrative of this…In turn high demand for Czech sites has produced a steady increase in the country’s clinical research costs.” – The World’s Your Clinical Research Oyster

Pharmacy Industry News: CVS and Medco are Both Buys

CVS and Medco are Both Buys

Medco Health Solutions shares endured a painful drop after the nation’s largest pharmacy-benefits manager (PBM) lost a major contract.

This morning, Medco (ticker: MHS) said its lucrative contract providing specialty pharmacy benefit coverage and mail-order service to Blue Cross Blue Shield Association will end next year. In its place, rival CVS Caremark (CVS) has signed a new three-year agreement with the organization to serve its federal employee program.

Investors cheered CVS, boosting shares 2.4% to $39.06 in midmorning trading, while punishing Medco, which fell 11.5% to $57.05.

However, we think both stocks could provide healthy returns.

The contract is a major victory for CVS, which already handles many aspects of Blue Cross’s government business; the new contract extends its relationship with Blue Cross to more than two decades.

Although details were not released, CVS’s aggressive pricing tactics reportedly helped win the contract. That said, CVS should still be able to realize a reasonable profit from the deal as it continues to cut costs.

This is also a victory for Per Lofberg, president of CVS’s pharmacy services segment since January 2010. Lofberg, Medco’s former chairman, was brought on board to stem CVS’s market-share losses following the integration of Caremark, which it acquired in 2007. Many on the Street have criticized the deal, calling it a drag on the stock.

Lofberg has streamlined the business and this new contract should quell some concerns about the integrated company. Standard & Poor’s Equity Research analyst Joseph Agnese argues that “After stabilizing the business in 2011, Lofberg should lead a recovery in growth within this segment in 2012.”

Trading at 12.4 times anticipated forward earnings, with a 1.3% yield, CVS shares don’t seem very pricey considering that earnings are expected to grow 11.6% this year, according to Thomson Reuters. recommended shares last year (See Barron’s Take, “CVS, Walgreens Truce the Right Rx,” June 18, 2010), and the stock has risen 20% since that time.

Though banged up today, Medco deserves a second look. Although the Blue Cross contract provided $3 billion in annual-net revenues, it comprised less than 10% of Medco’s business, so the loss isn’t crippling: Medco provides drug benefits to about one fifth of the U.S. population, according to Morningstar analyst Matthew Coffina, which gives it an industry-leading advantage.

While analysts concede this is a setback, some spy a buying opportunity. Lazard Capital Markets analyst Tom Gallucci reiterated his Buy rating while lowering his price-target to $64, about 12% above current levels. Leerink Swann analyst David Larsen called today’s volatility a buying opportunity.

Macro trends also support the industry, which could help Medco. As J.P. Morgan analyst Lisa Gill wrote earlier this month, “the positive fundamental outlook for the PBM industry,” should work with Medco’s push toward generics and specialty pharmacy business to propel the stock.

Even if its growth prospects are diminished, Medco trades at a very reasonable multiple of 11.4 times expected-forward earnings and 17.3 times trailing earnings, which is near a five-year low. If we accept Medco’s “less than 10% of 2011 EPS” projection for the lost contract’s impact to earnings, it would suggest that earnings will rise 12% in FY12, based on figures provided by Thomson Financial.

At these levels Medco seems cheap enough to take a gamble, especially with its rich 31.6% return on equity, strong balance sheet and 1.3% yield.

Today’s news shows CVS making impressive strides in its struggling PBM business. And while Medco seems like a dicier bet, its cheap valuation suggests it’s a worthwhile investment.

Wolters Kluwer Health Completes Acquisition of Lexi-Comp, Inc.

Philadelphia, PA (May 27, 2011) – Wolters Kluwer Health today announced that it has completed the acquisition of Lexi-Comp, Inc., a leading provider of drug information and clinical content for pharmacists, clinicians, and hospitals internationally. The acquisition is the latest in a series of strategic acquisitions Wolters Kluwer Health has made in its Clinical Solutions business as part of the company’s strong focus on the point-of-care market.

Arvind Subramanian, President & CEO of Wolters Kluwer Health Clinical Solutions, said “This acquisition is very much aligned with our growth strategy of building out our strong portfolio of Clinical Decision Support (CDS) solutions to further our leadership position in the point-of-care market. This strategy will enable our customers to access leading clinical content, drug information for the retail and hospital pharmacies, and innovative mobile offerings.”

Lexi-Comp provides services and content to nearly 1,500 hospitals internationally, has more than 1,700 drug monographs and is particularly strong in the area of mobile content for pharmacists and clinicians. To support and supplement effective clinician-patient interactions, Lexi-Comp also provides patient medication leaflets in 19 languages. The company is headquartered near Cleveland, Ohio and has approximately 150 employees.

The intent to acquire Lexi-Comp was announced on April 27, 2011. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

About Wolters Kluwer Health
Wolters Kluwer Health (Philadelphia, PA) is a leading global provider of information, business intelligence and point-of-care solutions for the healthcare industry. Serving more than 150 countries and territories worldwide, Wolters Kluwer Health’s customers include professionals, institutions and students in medicine, nursing, allied health and pharmacy. Major brands include traditional publishers of medical and drug reference tools, journals and textbooks, such as Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; and electronic information providers, such as Ovid®, UpToDate®, Medi-Span®, Facts & Comparisons®, Pharmacy OneSource® and ProVation® Medical.

Wolters Kluwer Health is part of Wolters Kluwer, a market-leading global information services company. Wolters Kluwer has 2010 annual revenues of €3.6 billion ($4.7 billion), employs approximately 19,000 people worldwide, and maintains operations in over 40 countries across Europe, North America, Asia Pacific, and Latin America.

Forward-looking Statements
This press release contains forward-looking statements. These statements may be identified by words such as “expect”, “should”, “could”, “shall”, “will” and similar expressions. Wolters Kluwer cautions that such forward-looking statements are qualified by certain risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results and events to differ materially from what is contemplated by the forward-looking statements. Factors which could cause actual results to differ from these forward-looking statements may include, without limitation, general economic conditions; conditions in the markets in which Wolters Kluwer is engaged; behavior of customers, suppliers, and competitors; technological developments; the implementation and execution of new ICT systems or outsourcing; and legal, tax, and regulatory rules affecting Wolters Kluwer’s businesses, as well as risks related to mergers, acquisitions, and divestments. In addition, financial risks such as currency movements, interest rate fluctuations, liquidity, and credit risks could influence future results. The foregoing list of factors should not be construed as exhaustive. Wolters Kluwer disclaims any intention or obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise.

Pharmaceutical industry yields to pressure from San Francisco to fund a drug take-back program

Starting as soon as August, San Franciscans will be able to dispose of their unused medicines for free at 16 independent pharmacies and five police stations throughout the city. The pharmaceutical industry is funding the pilot program with $110,000, after facing city plans that threatened to extend producer responsibility to pharmaceuticals.

The program has funding for at least 12 to 18 months after which officials hope it will be become permanent. All household medication can be brought to police stations, and participating pharmacies will collect everything else except controlled substances.

Disposing of pharmaceuticals has been a chronic problem in San Francisco without a sustainable solution. Currently, no pharmacy accepts unused or expired drugs. For decades, officials told people to simply flush their unused drugs or throw them in the trash.

Especially in the past decade, scientists have started to measure the toxic effects of pharmaceuticals in the waterways and groundwater. Continuous exposure to low levels of pharmaceutical residue can threaten wildlife like fish and frogs. Minor residue has been found even in tap water, as Associated Press revealed in 2008 in an investigative report. No comprehensive studies have been published about long-term effects of low levels of pharmaceuticals consumed in drinking water, but officials now advise that no unused pharmaceuticals be disposed down the drain or in the trash.

San Francisco supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who led the negotiations with the pharmaceutical industry to fund the pilot program, said that the scope of the problem with pharmaceutical waste in the Bay Area waterways is not fully known.

“What we do know is that our infrastructure is not designed to filter waste,” said Mirkarimi.

Most European countries have take-back programs for unused or expired medications. In the United States, the medical waste disposal is primarily regulated at state level. One problem is that a federal law states that only law-enforcement officers may collect controlled substances. Colorado, for example, is piloting a program with eleven take-back boxes around the state and Washtenaw County in Michigan has eleven pharmacies accepting unused medication. Teleosis, a nonprofit organization for greener health care, lists take-back programs nationwide.

The pharmaceutical companies have been reluctant to take responsibility for the disposal of their products. When Mirkarimi initiated an ordinance to extend producer responsibility to pharmaceuticals, the companies called for a more “collaborative” approach rather than an ordinance to require them to develop and implement their own collection program. After negotiations, PhRMA, the trade association for pharmaceutical companies, donated $100,000, and Genentech gave $10,000 toward the pilot program.

Big chains like Walgreens and Safeway decided not to participate. Mirkarimi said he was neither disappointed nor surprised.

“They need to understand what it means to become corporate partners and they’ve got a long way to go,” Mirkarimi said. He said the decision will reflect poorly on the big chains. “I think people will start to ask the obvious question: ‘Why are Safeway and Walgreens not providing this service either free or at very low cost?’”

Walgreens said customers can already buy specially designed envelopes for $3.99 to return unused medication for incineration.

“We also believe that there are legal risks if we participated in the initiative and that it could violate federal drug enforcement rules regarding the collection of controlled substances,” wrote Walgreens spokesman Robert Elfinger in an email. The pharmacy participates in local take-back events organized by Bay Area law-enforcement organizations.

Apart from Walgreens, at least Safeway’s and Kaiser’s pharacies sell similar envelopes. San Francisco residents can pick up these envelopes for free at three locations. This SF Environment initiative will be discontinued when the envelopes run out because they are too expensive ($3.75 each).

“The envelopes are really expensive for the city to provide free but we also don’t think that pharmaceutical disposal should be something that people should have to pay for,” said Caitlin Sanders, a Residential Toxics Reduction associate at San Francisco’s Department of the Environment.

The pilot program is still in the works. SF Environment does not want to reveal the take-back locations because not all pharmacies have signed the official paperwork. Nine of the city’s 11 districts have independent pharmacies and in each of them at least one pharmacy is participating in the program. SF Environment chose the participating police stations to cover the outlying areas. The program is expected to launch in August.

Sanders said she hopes that the pilot is a success and that the companies will renew the funding voluntarily. If not, supervisor Mirkarimi will consider pushing forward with the legislation to extend the producers’ responsibility. “That would depend on how well the pilot program works, what kind of relationship — positive or not — we develop with the pharmaceutical industry, and if federal law evolves by that time,” he said.

Having a place to take unused medication does not mean that people actually will do it. Even in countries with effective take-back programs, pharmaceutical waste ends in the wrong place, especially liquid waste that is too often flushed into the sewage system. That’s why about $50,000 of the pilot program funding is going to outreach and education about the program.

Mirkarimi has also proposed an ordinance to require all small businesses selling prescription drugs to publicly display materials explaining how to safely and lawfully dispose of unused drugs. The ordinance passed the public safety committee but hasn’t yet been heard in front of the full Board of Supervisors.