Latebreakers: November 20, 2006

November 20, 2006

CVS and Caremark have entered into a definitive merger agreement that would unite the second-largest mail-order prescription company with the No. 2 drugstore chain.

CVS, Caremark to walk down the aisle

CVS and Caremark have entered into a definitive merger agreement that would unite the second-largest mail-order prescription company with the No. 2 drugstore chain. The new company will be called CVS/Caremark Corp. and will be headquartered in Woonsocket, R.I. The new pharmacy services business, including the combined PBM, specialty pharmacy, and disease management businesses, will be headquartered in Nashville. How did other chains react to the news? Carol Hively, Walgreens spokeswoman, said, "Our early reaction is that anything with the potential to increase retail pharmacy's influence on managed care is a good thing. This merger should help accelerate two strategies strongly supported by retail pharmacy: lower co-pays for patients and higher use of 90-day retail prescription options, like our own Advantage90 program. By saving money for patients and insurance plans, both these strategies help stretch the nation's healthcare dollar."

DEA rules on one issue, seeks comments on another

CDC, Merck expand access to cervical cancer vaccine

CDC has adopted a recommendation by its Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices to include Merck's cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil in the agency's Vaccines for Children program. The program will enable youngsters nine through 18 who are Medicaid-eligible, uninsured, underinsured, or Native American to get the quadrivalent human papillomavirus recombinant vaccine, which prevents HPV types of cervical cancer. Merck has also started a new patient assistance program that provides its own vaccines in physicians' offices to individuals 19 and older who are uninsured or unable to afford the products. For information on the Merck Adult Vaccines Patient Assistance Program, go to http://www.merckhelps.com/.

Meijer begins free Rx program; Wegmans to offer discounts

In a separate but related development, Wegmans Food Markets, which operates 71 stores in five states, announced its pharmacies will sell almost 100 generics at a significant discount. Under the program, Wegmans pharmacies will sell 90-day Rxs for $11.99.