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Archive for June, 2010

Do you take Pantoprazole?

June 29, 2010 By: PharmaSueAnn Category: Medtipster

Supplies of Pantoprazole will be gone shortly. Due to patent issues, Pantoprazole is in limited supply and is no longer being manufactured. If you do not want to pay the highest brand copayment for Protonix, you may want to consider generic Prilosec or Prevacid or even an OTC agents such as omeprazole, Prevacid 24 HOUR or Zegerid OTC.

The myth of the perfect drug

June 28, 2010 By: Nadia Category: HealthCare, Medicine Advice, Medtipster, Prescription News

www.Medtipster.com Source: The Boston Globe – Christoph Westphal, 6/28/2010

If we focus too much on side effects, we might forfeit important new medications

WHEN IT comes to prescription drugs, patients expect benefits but appear intolerant of risks. What would happen in a world that accepts no risks in its pharmaceuticals? We would have very empty medicine cabinets.

Every June, 200 biotech and pharmaceutical CEOs gather in Boston. This year, the deputy commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration spoke to the group on the evolving risk-benefit analysis regarding prescription drugs. Much of the ensuing dialogue with the CEOs centered on society’s changing views of drug benefits and risks.

The first “wonder drug,” aspirin, was synthesized by Bayer in 1897 and marketed in 1899. This extremely rapid path from initial experiments to market is impossible to imagine in today’s world. Now, aspirin has some wonderful properties – it reduces inflammation, prevents blood from clotting, lowers fever, and lessens pain. Millions of Americans take aspirin every year, without a doctor’s prescription. However, side effects kill roughly 10 out of 100,000 men taking aspirin. In fact, it is possible that aspirin would not be approved today by the FDA, so dramatic is the shift in society’s risk-benefit views regarding pharmaceutical products.

That shift spelled the doom a few years ago of another drug with significant benefit, but some risk, namely Vioxx. Merck had shown beneficial effects of Vioxx in severe arthritis in thousands of patients, and the drug was approved. After Vioxx reached the market, however, the risk of death from heart attack, estimated by independent academics to be on the order of 20 to 30 out of 100,000 patients taking the drug, led Merck to remove Vioxx from the market. There are likely patients with severe arthritis who would accept the risk of side effects, in order to benefit from this effective medicine. But these patients no longer are able to make their own risk-benefit calculations. Instead, society has determined on their behalf that this therapeutic option should no longer be available to them.

How dangerous, in comparison to taking aspirin or Vioxx, is driving a car? According to the National Safety Council, the risk of dying in a car accident during one year is about 155 out of 100,000. The death rate of car usage actually appears a good deal higher than the likelihood of death caused by taking Vioxx or aspirin. Nevertheless, no one is arguing that cars should be taken off the market. Instead, society has decided that the benefits of cars outweigh their risks.

As society has shifted to a view that medications should have virtually no risks, the inevitable effect has been to reduce the flow of important new drugs. It is certainly fair to rigorously test any new medication prior to approval. In addition, any new drugs should be monitored for safety and efficacy after they have reached the market.

But society must be careful to weigh the benefits of effective new drugs for diseases that until now have been poorly treated, versus the added risks of the new medications. If we focus too much on the risks of drugs, and do not balance those risks against the benefits, fewer drugs will be approved and reach patients in need. That is a risk in and of itself.

On your next drive, remember that it may be riskier to get in your car than to take the drug Vioxx, which was shown to be highly beneficial to patients with severe arthritis, but has been removed from the market.

Discount Cards Offer Little To No Benefit

June 23, 2010 By: Nadia Category: HealthCare, Medtipster, Prescription News, Prescription Savings

Search the internet and you will find hundreds of companies offering pharmacy discounts cards. We looked at several and found alarming results.

All of the pharmacy discount cards we investigated boasted agressive pharmacy discounts.  Let’s define “agressive”:

Half of the discount cards offered an average 12% brand drug discount. The other half cost more than the pharmacy’s cash price.

Nearly 90% of the discount cards had a generic drug price that was higher than the pharmacy’s cash price.

The 10% that had value offered pennys in savings at best.

One of the better cards was offered by the National Association of Counties.  The example below highlights the NACO’s discounted price for frequently utilized Simvastatin 40mg (Generic Zocor).

Comparing NACO’s mail order price to the prices found on www.Medtipster.com were amusing for us, but will most likely be upsetting to anyone whom has one of these NACO discount cards.

Bottom-line: Make sure you pay nothing for these cards and perhaps consider even using them at all.

See example below:

Welcome to Medtipster.com’s “Create a Caption” game!

June 22, 2010 By: Nadia Category: Medtipster

Please send your caption ideas for the photo below to contact@medtipster.com with “Create a caption” in the subject line.

Winners will receive a $100.00 gift card to one of the following Pharmacy supporters, Kmart, Kroger or Walmart. Winner’s choice.  Winner selected monthly by www.Medtipster.com.

In this photo, Medtipster President Jason Klein (right) speaks with Compuware President, Peter Karmanos (left).

Generic Drug Delay Fight May Be Nearing Turning Point

June 21, 2010 By: Nadia Category: HealthCare, Medtipster, Prescription News, Prescription Savings

Generic Drug Delay Fight May Be Nearing Turning Point, FTC’s Leibowitz Says
06/21/2010
www.Medtipster.com Source: Bloomberg News – Washington DC Bureau

The U.S. government’s decade-long fight to limit drugmakers’ ability to keep generic medicines off the market may reach “a turning point” soon, Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jonathan Leibowitz said.

The FTC is counting on a review by an appeals court to break a deadlock over agreements made by brand-name drugmakers that it says delay the introduction of lower-priced generic medicines. The focus is on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, which may decide by August whether to review a deal between Bayer AG and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.’s Barr unit on when a generic version of the antibiotic Cipro can go on the market.

The Cipro case “signals a renewed concern about these pay-for-delay deals, and hopefully it will mark a turning point towards a legal rule that prohibits brand pharmaceutical companies from paying off their generic competitors to sit it out,” Leibowitz, 52, said in an interview. The review could bring the issue of agreements before the Supreme Court.

The fight pits drugmakers against the FTC, the Justice Department, pharmacies such as CVS Caremark Corp. and President Barack Obama, who cited the greater availability of generic drugs as a way to reduce health-care costs. There also is an effort in Congress to restrict the settlements.

Licensing Deals

The FTC contends brand-name makers offer generic-drug companies licensing rights on a product or other compensation in exchange for an agreement on when cheaper drugs are introduced. The agency said it supports settlements, except when there is some sort of financial consideration.

Medicines that generate about $92 billion in sales will face generic competition through 2014 because of expiring patents, according to the research firm IMS Health Inc. Medicines accounted for $250.3 billion in U.S. sales for brand- name drugmakers in 2009 and $35.8 billion for generic firms, according to Norwalk, Connecticut-based IMS.

Defending valid patents is vital, said Jerry Pappert, general counsel of Frazer, Pennsylvania-based Cephalon Inc. “If the branded company loses, it loses its franchise.”

Cephalon is being sued by the FTC, which contends the drugmaker paid more than $200 million for generic companies to drop their challenge to patents on its sleep-disorder drug Provigil. Cephalon says the settlements are in accordance with patent law.

No Delay

In the Cipro case, CVS and other pharmacies said Bayer paid $398.1 million for Barr to drop its patent challenge. David Stark, general counsel for Teva’s North America unit, said generic-drug makers aren’t delaying marketing products as a result of financial incentives. The agreements are no different than patent deals in other industries, he said.

Leibowitz said the agreements add to health-care costs. If some settlements between companies aren’t prohibited, “you’re going to pay seven, eight, 10 times as much as you otherwise would,” he said. The FTC said the deals cost consumers $3.5 billion annually, a figure disputed by economists such as Jonathan Orszag, senior managing director at the economic consulting firm Compass Lexecon in Washington and the brother of White House Budget Director Peter Orszag.

Courts have allowed the settlements as long as they don’t prevent entry of the generic beyond a patent’s lifespan.

In the Cipro case, the agreement allowed a generic drug to be sold six months before the patent expired, said Kathleen Jaeger, chief executive officer of the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, a Washington trade group.

‘Tremendous Value’

“The FTC doesn’t see the tremendous value the patent settlements have brought to the system,” she said.

Since February, courts have thrown out antitrust lawsuits over Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.’s blood-thinner Plavix and AndroGel, a testosterone ointment now made by Abbott Laboratories. The FTC lost a case over a settlement involving Schering-Plough Corp.’s K-Dur heart medication.

A three-judge panel in April upheld the Cipro settlement, though it recommended opponents seek a review by the full court.

The potential court review, along with legislation Leibowitz predicted Congress would pass this year, add momentum to efforts to limit deals. Senators Herb Kohl, a Wisconsin Democrat, and Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, introduced an anti-deal measure. House legislation would bar the settlements.

‘Winds Are Shifting’

“The winds are shifting on the legal front, shifting on the commission front and on the legislative front,” said Robert Doyle, a former FTC official.

Ken Johnson, a senior vice president at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a Washington trade group, said brand-name drug companies need patent protection to justify the investments required to develop medicines. Drugmakers said the settlements also provide certainty as to when generics will enter the market.

Stark said a court review may not be significant.

“I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion just because they take it up that they reverse the trend,” he said.

Marcy Funk, a spokeswoman for Leverkusen, Germany-based Bayer, declined to comment.

All parties are watching if the 2nd Circuit agrees to hear the Cipro case. The decision may come in August, said David Balto, a lawyer representing consumer groups.

Leibowitz said he believes the FTC has a strong hand. “I have yet to see an issue that’s as black and white,” he said.

The 2nd Circuit case is In Re Ciprofloxacin Hydrochloride Antitrust Litigation, 05-2851 and 05-2852, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (New York).

Employer healthcare costs expected to rise 9% in 2011, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers

June 15, 2010 By: Nadia Category: HealthCare, Medtipster, Prescription News

www.Medtipster.com Source: www.pwc.com – June 14, 2010

The nation’s employers can expect medical costs to increase by 9% in 2011, a decrease of 0.5% from the 2010 growth rate, according to the annual Behind the Numbers report published today by the PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) Health Research Institute. For the first time, the majority of the American workforce is expected to have a health insurance deductible of $400 or more, as more employers return to “indemnity style” cost-sharing by raising out-of-pocket limits, replacing co-pays with co-insurance and adding high-deductible health plans.

The Behind the Numbers report includes findings of the PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health and Well-Being Touchstone Survey of more than 700 employers from 30 industries, as well as interviews with health plan actuaries and other executives whose companies provide health insurance for 47 million American workers and their families.

Improving wellness programs and increased cost-sharing lead the planned changes employers will make in the benefit plan designs they will offer for next year. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Touchstone research:

  • Two-thirds (67%) of companies intend to expand or improve wellness programs inside the US
  • 42% intend to increase employee contributions for health insurance coverage.
  • 41% intend to increase medical cost-sharing, including higher deductibles and co-pays, while only 26% intend to increase prescription drug cost-sharing.
  • More employers are dropping health benefits for retirees. One-third of employers with over 5,000 workers subsidize pre-65 retiree medical coverage, down from 47% in 2009. Only 22% of employers with over 5,000 employees subsidize post-65 retiree medical coverage, down from 37% in 2009.

In 2011, the Behind the Numbers report outlines three primary deflators that will help employers hold down medical costs:

  • Employers are moving toward pre-managed care benefit design by increasing deductibles and replacing co-pays with co-insurance. By requiring workers to spend more out-of-pocket at the point of care, employers believe they will rein in utilization of services and drugs. The number of employers using co-insurance for physician visits has nearly doubled, and one-third use co-insurance for brand-name drugs.
  • Drug costs are tempered by generics. Insurers are benefitting from the growing use of generic drugs. Drugs representing about $26 billion in annual sales are expected to go off patent in 2011, including the world’s best-selling drug, Lipitor. Generics account for as much as 80% of all prescriptions.
  • COBRA costs are expected to return to more normal levels in 2011. COBRA subsidies passed by Congress in 2009 created a 1% increase in the medical cost trend, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ analysis. A combination of declining unemployment and expiration of the COBRA subsidies is expected to lead to reduced enrollment in COBRA.

The biggest inflators of the medical trend in 2011 will be in hospital and physician costs, which make up 81% of premium costs. 

  • Hospitals shifting costs from Medicare to private payers and employers is seen as the Number One reason for higher medical costs trends. In 2011, Medicare, which is the single largest payer for hospitals, will reduce payment rates to hospitals for the first time after seven years of increases that nearly matched or exceeded inflation increases. Some hospitals that benefitted from higher payments in 2008 and 2009 may be able to manage this type of cut by tapping their reserves. Yet, more are likely to shift more costs to commercial payers during their negotiations.
  • Provider consolidation is increasing, which is expected to increase their bargaining power. More physicians are getting out of private practice and joining forces with local hospitals or larger physician groups. The number of physicians involved in mergers or acquisitions in 2009 was 2,910, nearly twice that of 2008. There has been record consolidation activity in 2010, and PricewaterhouseCoopers expects the trend to accelerate in 2011. Payers expect to see more negotiating power and higher prices in the short term, though the benefits of consolidation should create efficiencies that moderate rate increases in the future.
  • Spurred by stimulus funding that begins in 2011 and Medicare penalties that begin in 2015, hospitals will invest billions of dollars in certified electronic health record (EHR) systems. While many hospital systems were planning to implement EHRs in the near future, the government’s new regulations dramatically condensed their timelines to invest in technology, IT staff, training and process redesign. Healthcare CIOs surveyed by PwC said they will make their largest investments to meet the new EHR regulations in 2011. In the long term, EHRs are expected to help control costs. 

“For more than 50 years, US employers have used health benefits as a critical part of their compensation package to recruit and retain workers,” said Michael Thompson, principal, Human Resource Services, PricewaterhouseCoopers. “The value of these benefits is becoming an even more visible part of overall compensation as medical costs grow, and, by 2014, health insurance benefits will shift from being a voluntary benefit to an individual mandate, enforced by new tax levies. Companies are now working with their health plan providers for new post-recession, post-health reform strategies to sustain their programs and promote health and well-being as their next competitive advantage.” 

Each year, PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute provides estimates on growth of private medical costs over the next year and what the leading drivers of the trend are expected to be. Insurance companies use medical cost trends to help set health plan premiums by estimating what the same health plan this year would cost in the next year. In turn, employers use the information to make adjustments in benefit plan design to help offset any cost increases. 

“Health reform delivers only a minor impact on the underlying medical cost trends in 2011 and introduces hundreds of changes in the healthcare system designed to reduce costs and improve efficiencies in the long-term,” said Kelly A. Barnes, US health industries leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers. “These changes could bring significant new cost savings opportunities for employers and payers as well as new choices and transparency for workers buying insurance.” 

PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Behind the Numbers report and survey highlights are available at www.pwc.com/us/medicalcosts2011. The full findings of the PricewaterhouseCoopers 2010 Health and Well-being Touchstone survey are available at  www.pwc.com/us/touchstone2010.For more on the details on the implications of health reform, go to http://www.pwc.com/healthreform

Methodology

The 2010 Health and Well-Being Touchstone survey was completed in the first quarter of 2010. Survey participants included 700 U.S- based companies across the country from 30 different industries. Companies ranged in size from small employers with fewer than 500 employees to large companies with more than 20,000 employees. 

About PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute (HRI)

PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute (www.pwc.com/hri) is an unparalleled resource for health industry expertise. By providing cutting-edge intelligence, perspective and analysis on issues impacting the health industry, HRI assists executive decision-makers and stakeholders worldwide in navigating their most pressing business challenges. PricewaterhouseCoopers is one of the only firms with a dedicated global healthcare research unit, capitalizing on fact-based research and collaborative exchange among our network of professionals with day-to-day experience in the health industries. 

About PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Industries Group

 PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Industries Group (www.pwc.com/healthindustries) is a leading advisor to public and private organizations across the health industry, including payers, providers, academic institutions, health sciences, biotech/medical devices, pharmaceutical companies, employers and new non-traditional market participants in the dynamic healthcare space. PricewaterhouseCoopers has a network of more than 4,000 professionals worldwide and 1,200 professionals in the US dedicated to the health industries.

PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Industries’ clients include 40 of the top 100 hospitals in the US and 16 of the 18 best hospitals as ranked by US News & World Report; all 20 of the world’s major pharmaceutical companies; all of the top 20 commercial payers in the US; municipal, state and federal government agencies and many of the world’s preeminent medical foundations and associations. Follow PwC Health Industries at http://twitter.com/PwCHealth.

About PricewaterhouseCoopers
PricewaterhouseCoopers (www.pwc.com) provides industry-focused assurance, tax and advisory services to build public trust and enhance value for its clients and their stakeholders. More than 163,000 people in 151 countries across our network share their thinking, experience and solutions to develop fresh perspectives and practical advice.

“PricewaterhouseCoopers” refers to PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP or, as the context requires, the PricewaterhouseCoopers global network or other member firms of the network, each of which is a separate and independent legal entity.

© 2010 PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. All rights reserved

 Lisa Stearns
The Hubbell Group, Inc.
Tel: +1 (781) 878 8882
lstearns@hubbellgroup.com

June 11, 2010 By: Jason A. Klein Category: HealthCare, Medtipster, Prescription News, Prescription Savings

ShopRite Offering Free Diabetes Medications

June 09, 2010 By: Nadia Category: Free Prescriptions, HealthCare, Medicine Advice, Medtipster, Prescription News, Prescription Savings

www.Medtipster.com Source: www.progressivegrocer.com – 5.8.2010

This past weekend, ShopRite began providing free diabetes medications and education to customers – with or without insurance at store pharmacies across Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware.

“ShopRite has always had a commitment to consumer education, helping our customers understand their food choices, so they can eat right and stay healthy,” said Karen Meleta, spokeswoman at Keasbey, N.J.-based Wakefern Food Corp., the retail co-op whose 46 members operates stores under the ShopRite banner. “Our pharmacies offer information on medical conditions, and our dietitians are an invaluable service — providing food and nutrition counseling. These are just a few of the unique services that make ShopRite the go-to place for our customers.”

To take part in the program, customers must have a valid prescription from their doctor. There’s no membership or other commitment required. Seven drugs, in varying strengths, will be offered in the program, and the free medications will be available in 30-day supplies, based on common dosing.

Additionally, ShopRite Pharmacies are educating customers about living with diabetes, including tips on healthy meal planning. Select ShopRite stores with on-site dietitians can provide one-on-one consultations offering advice on how to shop the store to find the best options for a diabetic diet and prepare meals for people with diabetes.

Shoppers can also find information about living with diabetes in the “Health and Wellness” section of ShopRite.com or by sending a question to ShopRite’s corporate dietitian, Natalie Menza, through the “Ask the Dietitian” feature on ShopRite.com.

As well as the free diabetes medications, ShopRite has expanded its already existing 90-day generic drug program by offering a 30-day supply of generic medications for $3.99. The $9.99 (90-day) generic drug program provides customers further savings on more than 375 commonly prescribed generic drugs used to treat a range of medical conditions, including allergies and asthma, arthritis pain, and elevated cholesterol.

“At ShopRite, our goal is to provide the best service and every day low prices,” added Meleta. “When you combine our new free diabetes medication program … with our 30-day/$3.99 and 90-day/$9.99 generic drug programs, we provide our customers with a comprehensive solution for meeting their prescription needs.”

ShopRite is the registered trademark of Wakefern Food Corp., whose members operate over 200 ShopRite supermarkets throughout New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware and Maryland.

Find a ShopRite Pharmacy nearest you on Medtipster.com

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