Hot off the Press for September 26, 2005

September 26, 2005

Pharmacists in the spotlight Walgreens acquires Theragran-M multivitamins Illinois charges nondispensing pharmacies Massachusetts lawmakers override EC veto HealthTrans, N.Y. chain to offer PBM services McKesson helps Costco expand with central fill GAO study compares AMP, AWP, U&C prices FDA to hold DTC advertising hearing Oncologists value off-label Rx use Display firm debuts behind-the-counter system PBM settles kickback suit for $137 million NAMS reviews testosterone therapy for women Will skyrocketing gas prices affect pharmacies?

September 26, 2005

Pharmacists in the spotlight
Pharmacists are the focus of a one-hour documentary that will air on PBS station WLIW, Channel 21, in New York on Oct. 11 and on participating public television stations throughout the month. ?Pharmacists: Unsung Heroes? profiles pharmacists as the medication use experts who help patients make sense out of all of the choices they now have when it comes to medications. The film also explores the pharmacist shortage and its impact on health care. Viewers will be treated to a history lesson on how pharmacy has evolved over the years to become the nation?s ?most trusted profession.? Also available are a 20-minute educational DVD version of the film for junior high school and high school students, a teachers? guide, and a dedicated Web site. ASHP, along with AACP, Pfizer, and APhA, are among the sponsors of the program. Back to top

Walgreens acquires Theragran-M multivitamins
Walgreens has acquired the rights to the brand name Theragran-M in the United States from Bristol-Myers Squibb. Theragran-M Advanced formula will return exclusively to Walgreens stores in mid-October. Back to top

Illinois charges nondispensing pharmacies
Three Illinois pharmacists have been charged with failure to fill scripts for emergency contraception (EC) in violation of state rules. An Osco drugstore in St. Charles and two Walgreens, one in Chicago and one in East Peoria, were cited in the complaints, in which the state seeks to “revoke, suspend, or otherwise discipline” their pharmacy licenses. Hearings for the pharmacies are scheduled for Nov. 21. First imposed by the governor in April, the law requiring pharmacies that sell contraceptives to fill scripts for EC was made permanent in August. Back to top

Massachusetts lawmakers override EC veto
The Massachusetts state legislature has voted to override Gov. Mitt Romney's veto of a measure that would expand access to emergency contraception. The measure, which the Republican governor vetoed in July, would require hospital ER doctors to offer the medication to rape victims. It would also make the medication available without a prescription. The state senate voted 37-0 to override the veto. In the house, the vote was 139-16 to override. Back to top

HealthTrans, N.Y. chain to offer PBM services
HealthTrans, a pharmacy benefit administrator, has signed a contract with Duane Reade to comarket pharmacy benefit services and to provide pharmacy benefit services to the retailer?s employees. Under this two-part contract, HealthTrans and Duane Reade will begin marketing pharmacy benefit services Nov. 1 to small and mid-sized employer groups and unions in the New York metropolitan area. In addition, beginning Jan. 1, HealthTrans and Duane Reade will provide pharmacy benefit services to Duane Reade?s employees. Back to top

McKesson helps Costco expand with central fill
McKesson Corp. will provide centralized prescription fulfillment services to Costco pharmacies in Oregon and Washington through a McKesson-owned and -operated central fill facility outside of Seattle. McKesson is leveraging its automation and inventory management expertise to help Costco pharmacies increase productivity, reduce store-level inventory, and enhance customer service and clinical care. Back to top

GAO study compares AMP, AWP, U&C prices
A new GAO study provides the feds with more reason to favor AMP over AWP as a basis for reimbursing drug claims. The study compared average manufacturer price, average wholesale price, and usual-and-customary prices for 96 brand and generic drugs for a sample of Medicare and non-Medicare enrollees from 2000 through 2004. It found that AWPs increased at a faster rate than AMPs and U&C prices for 50 brand drugs during the study period. GAO did the study since the government will be a big payer of drugs as of next January when the Medicare drug benefit goes into effect. To access the GAO report, click on www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/oc/dockets/meetings/meetingdocket.cfm.Back to top

Oncologists value off-label Rx use
Oncologists believe that off-label use of anticancer therapies plays an important role in treatment of cancer patients, according to in-depth interviews with 40 oncologists and oncology practice managers conducted by Covance for PhRMA, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, and the Association of Community Cancer Centers. Oncologists generally reserve off-label use for advanced cancers, but reimbursement policies influence their decisions on whether or not to use drugs off-label. Back to top

Display firm debuts behind-the-counter system
Henschel-Steinau, a manufacturer of in-store displays, is rolling out a solution designed to help pharmacists and retailers relocate pseudoephedrine-containing cough, cold, and allergy products in order to meet recently enacted regulations. Several major retailers, including Wal-Mart, Kmart, Kroger, and Supervalu, will be using the system this fall for brands such as Advil, Benadryl, Claritin, Sudafed, Sinutab, and Tylenol. The units provide an in-aisle presence through a system of facsimile product cards that contain information to help consumers shop the category. The units contain package information, including symptoms and dosage facts. Consumers may then take the card they selected to the pharmacy, which is equipped with a behind-the-counter unit with modules that hold an average of 20 SKUs depending on package sizes. Back to top

PBM settles kickback suit for $137 million
Caremark Rx agreed to pay $137 million to settle whistle-blower lawsuits alleging that AdvancePCS, a PBM it purchased in 2004, received kickbacks from drug companies and paid kickbacks to customers. The settlement was with the U.S. Department of Justice but does not dismiss whistle-blower claims in 10 states. While denying wrongdoing, Caremark agreed to disclose to customers information about payments from drug companies and to avoid drug switching. In return, the PBM will not be excluded from federal programs. Back to top

NAMS reviews testosterone therapy for women
Testosterone therapy has been shown to improve sexual function in many postmenopausal women, primarily the lack of sexual desire, arousal, and orgasmic response, according to the most recent evidence-based position statement from the North American Menopause Society (NAMS). The paper, titled “The role of testosterone in postmenopausal women,” was published in the September/October 2005 issue of the Society’s official journal, Menopause. The position statement can be viewed at