Congress is one step closer to cutting billions of dollars from the Medicaid budget, by reducing pharmacies' reimbursement, increasing patients' co-pays, and other measures. Committees in both houses have approved their own budget bill, which must be reconciled in the weeks ahead. Both NACDS and NCPA protested that the cuts affect community pharmacies disproportionately. NCPA said up to 40% of community pharmacies could close their doors and many Medicaid patients would lose access to care. for earlier story on Medicaid.

Pharmacies' Medicaid payment at stake in proposed budget cuts

Kroger to pay $7 million to settle suit

New injection treats leukemia

GlaxoSmithKline's Arranon (nelarabine) Injection has been cleared to treat T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia and T-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma in patients who have not responded to or have relapsed following treatment with at least two chemotherapy regimens. The agent was approved on an accelerated basis to treat these life-threatening illnesses, which affect 1,600 adults and children each year.

Compromise bill would ban coverage for ED drugs

Congress approved a compromise bill (HR 3971) that would ban Medicare and Medicaid coverage for erectile dysfunction (ED) medications. Medicaid reimbursements for ED medications would end on Jan. 1, 2006, and Medicare reimbursements for such treatments would end on Jan. 1, 2007. States could continue to cover the cost of ED drugs through their Medicaid programs, but the federal government no longer would provide matching funds for the coverage. The provision would save the federal government $690 million over five years, according to Rep. Nathan Deal (R, Ga.), who sponsored the original House bill.

APhA issues10-city diabetes challenge

The APhA Foundation has challenged businesses in 10 cities to better manage their employees' diabetes and save money. Modeled on the successful Asheville Project, the Diabetes Ten-City Challenge will match trained pharmacists with patients whose employers agree to waive co-pays on diabetes medications to encourage compliance. The project, underwritten by GlaxoSmithKline, is expected to begin in January.

This antidepressant could hurt liver

Patients with liver damage should not take Eli Lilly's Cymbalta (duloxetine HCl). The drug is used to treat depression and diabetic peripheral neuropathic pain. In a letter to health professionals, the Indianapolis firm said that based on postmarketing reports it has received, the drug has been associated with hepatitis and cholestatic jaundice. So Lilly advises against use of the drug in patients with a history of alcoholism, chronic liver disease, or hepatic insufficiency.

Havrix gets FDA nod for expanded use

GlaxoSmithKline has received the green light for the expanded use of Havrix (hepatitis A vaccine, inactivated) for the prevention of hepatitis A in children aged 12 months and older. Havrix was previously approved for use in children ages two through 18 years.

Pharmacies can go on-line to check Medicare Rx eligibility

Pharmacies that need to determine whether a Medicare beneficiary is enrolled in an Rx drug plan will be able to go on-line to check the patient's eligibility. The E1 request will be in real time to let pharmacies know whether the patient is covered and to which Rx plan to submit the claim. Each E1 query will cost 1.5 cents. Pharmacies should contact their software vendors to determine how the E1 function will be supported.

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