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March 21, 2005

Which were the top 10 drugs based on total prescription volume for retail pharmacies in 2004? According to NDCHealth Corp., the list includes the following, in descending order: hydrocodone w/APAP, Lipitor (atorvastatin, Pfizer), lisinopril, atenolol, Synthroid (levothyroxine sodium, Abbott), amoxicillin, hydrochlorothiazide, Zithromax (azithromycin, Pfizer), furosemide, and Norvasc (amlodipine besylate, Pfizer). So six out of the 10 products are generics, and three out of the remaining four are from Pfizer.

These products were the heavy hitters of 2004 Which were the top 10 drugs based on total prescription volume for retail pharmacies in 2004? According to NDCHealth Corp., the list includes the following, in descending order: hydrocodone w/APAP, Lipitor (atorvastatin, Pfizer), lisinopril, atenolol, Synthroid (levothyroxine sodium, Abbott), amoxicillin, hydrochlorothiazide, Zithromax (azithromycin, Pfizer), furosemide, and Norvasc (amlodipine besylate, Pfizer). So six out of the 10 products are generics, and three out of the remaining four are from Pfizer.

CVS, Walgreens want to be exempt from drug-tracking plan Two years after Florida passed a state law aimed at stemming the sale of counterfeit Rx drugs, two leaders of legislative healthcare committees have filed a bill, backed by lobbyists for CVS and Walgreens, to rewrite the plan. The Prescription Drug Safety Act of 2003 called for requiring "pedigree papers" to travel with each pharmaceutical as it moved from manufacturer to wholesaler to retailer. The program is scheduled to be in full effect in July 2005. Retailers say a robust paper trail is no longer needed, since state regulators have cracked down on wholesalers. The retail lobby also contends that the cost of implementing the plan is greater than anyone imagined.

PharmaCare to restore Rx benefits to retirees PharmaCare, a PBM and subsidiary of CVS Corp., has been chosen by the ISG VEBA Trust to administer the prescription drug program for thousands of retirees affected by the bankruptcies of four steel companies. The VEBA fund has accumulated sufficient funds to begin distribution of an Rx drug program. Over the past three years, LTV Steel, Bethlehem Steel, Acme Metals, and Georgetown Steel have filed for bankruptcy. As a result, thousands of retirees and their surviving spouses have lost their healthcare benefits.

GAO to CMS: Beef up oversight of Medicaid rebates GAO has issued a new report faulting CMS for not doing a good enough job in ensuring that states are collecting their full Medicaid rebates. GAO also contended that CMS has not provided clear and updated guidance to manufacturers so they could calculate their rebates appropriately. Commenting on the report, Ted Slafsky, executive director of the Public Hospital Pharmacy Coalition, said it's disconcerting to hear that there is inadequate oversight of Medicaid rebates, since not only are states overpaying for drugs, so are providers in the 340B drug discount program, because the two programs are linked.

PBM executive seeks N.J. governorship Douglas Forrester, president of the PBM BeneCard Services, is seeking to become the Republican candidate for the governorship of New Jersey. If the conservative multimillionaire wins his party's nomination, he will be pitted against another multimillionaire, Democratic Senator Jon Corzine. Even though Forrester hails from the PBM industry, a spokesman for the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association said it has no plans to endorse him, since the association never endorses political candidates. Forrester lost a U.S. Senate bid in 2002 when the Democrats dumped scandal-plagued candidate Robert Torricelli to run former Senator Frank Lautenberg.

Consumers Union kicks off outreach campaign Consumers Union is launching a nationwide outreach effort intended to offer easy-to-understand information about the effectiveness, safety, and price of prescription drugs to seniors, low-income residents, and the uninsured. The effort, which is also intended to help these consumers navigate the drug marketplace and get the best value for their money, kicks off in Atlanta. Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports, plans to partner with community organizations throughout the nation to help distribute the Best Buy Drugs report to consumers who may not have access to the free Web site at http://www.CRBestBuyDrugs.org/. The campaign is scheduled to begin in Sacramento, Calif., in April.