The Weekly Roundup: What's Next in Supply Chain Safety? (6.14.19)

June 14, 2019 | Pamela Youngberg

A pilot program announced this week seeks ways to use block chain technology to improve the prescription drug supply chain. “A permissioned block chain will provide an increased level of authority for patients and consumers, guaranteeing the drugs and vaccines they are receiving are not counterfeit, stolen, contaminated or harmful,” according to Craig Kennedy, senior vice president of supply chain at Merck, who is participating in the program with Walmart and technology partners IBM and KPMG. The new program is geared toward reducing the time associate with track-and-trace—a priority for the FDA based on its February program launch—and improving access and reliability. The potential for using the technology is vast, considering studies that have demonstrated that so much product is stolen, counterfeit, or damaged in transit. And while the so-called “porous” supply chain poses significant hazards to patients, it also adds significant cost to a system that has operated for decades in a black box.

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The Weekly Roundup: Next Steps for Step Therapy (5.31.19)

May 31, 2019 | Pamela Youngberg

On May 17, CMS announced its final rule on Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage plans with a range of measures seeking greater transparency and negotiating power. The proposed rule had excited extensive comment from healthcare providers and patient advocacy groups on one aspect of the rule: that Medicare Advantage plans will allow the use of “utilization management tools, such as step therapy, for Part B drugs,” which CMS believes will enhance the ability of Medicare A plans to negotiate Part B drug costs. Not so fast, say many healthcare providers who want to put legislative guardrails around the practice of step therapy and thereby put “patients and doctors back in charge of healthcare.” Groups like the Arthritis Foundation were vocal supporters last month at the introduction by Reps. Raul Ruiz (D-CA) and Brad Wenstrup (R-OH)—both doctors—of H.R. 2279, The Safe Step Act. The federal legislation would require the establishment of a clear process for exceptions and impose time limits on insurer approval, and it mirrors many similar efforts at the state level. The National Psoriasis Foundation maintains a convenient map of activity in each state.

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The Weekly Roundup: Counseling for Travel Health (5.24.19)

May 24, 2019 | Pamela Youngberg

Repercussions from the U.S. measles outbreak continue to emerge. The latest victim: air travel, as officials leverage the CDC’s Do Not Board list as a deterrent against the spread of disease. As the summer travel season heats up, there is a range of considerations pharmacists can counsel patients on with the aim of increasing the likelihood of a healthy journey. In addition to proper vaccination, there is advice for avoiding insect-related illnesses and suggestions for an international first-aid kit. For certain patients, like your diabetes patients, there are specific recommendations. (There are special tips for those traveling by air here.)

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The Weekly Roundup: Skin Cancer Awareness (5.17.19)

May 17, 2019 | Pamela Youngberg

Skin cancer is on the rise, especially in Arizona, Colorado, and on the eastern seaboard. May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and it is a great time to increase conversations about sun protection—even in our Sterling pharmacies in Minnesota, where theoretically the last of the snow has come and gone (fingers crossed). Pharmacists have played a historic role in prevention and continue to do so today. These products are among those that your patients are reading about in the consumer press. Here are some tips for making sun protection recommendations in advance of Memorial Day Weekend. Consider sharing stories like this across your social feeds to raise awareness of the condition. Or, feel free to download or share this free resource to supplement your patient education.

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The Weekly Roundup: Pet Meds and Your Pharmacy (5.10.19)

May 10, 2019

There is little doubt that for most pet owners, Fido is part of the family—and may represent a good way to diversify pharmacy topline revenue. Popular retailer PetSmart launched an online pet pharmacy in 2017, and this week, Walmart got on board with their own launch of an online pet pharmacy. It also announced a plan to expand its existing roster of store-based pet vet clinics from 21 to 100 over the next year. The market is ripe—especially among certain demographics—who want options for buying their pet meds. Despite cautions around purchasing Fido’s medications online, as shared by this New Hampshire-based vet clinic, pulling people into the pharmacy for pet meds won’t be easy, but it’s been a boon for this independent. If you are looking to add pet care to your lineup, check out these ideas for stepping into the market.

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The Weekly Roundup: Measles Outbreak Breaking Records (5.3.19)

May 03, 2019 | Pamela Youngberg

This week, Merck announced it was responding to an uptick in demand for the measles vaccine during the largest outbreak in a quarter century. From January to April 26 this year, the CDC reports 704 cases have been confirmed in 22 states. Offshore, a cruise ship has been quarantined after a confirmed case of measles was reported, with broad exposure among passengers feared. A 2015 New York bill to drop religious exemptions for vaccinations is stalled despite the area being one of the heaviest hit by the outbreak.

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The Weekly Roundup: Rules of Attraction (4.26.19)

April 27, 2019 | Pamela Youngberg

“Often staying successful is about learning and changing rather than sticking to the tried-and-true.” —Dane Holmes, Head of Human Capital Management, Goldman Sachs

This week, AARP and McDonald’s announced a program to help fill a quarter of a million seasonal jobs and a pilot program designed to match low-income seniors with jobs. When Goldman Sachs faced a recruiting crisis, it took two key steps to make sure it was reaching the best talent available: It widened the funnel to capture a broader range of applicants and identified the key competencies required to succeed at the firm, then stuck to structured questions to get at those competencies.

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The Weekly Roundup: Insulin May Be the Canary in the Coal Mine (4.19.19)

April 19, 2019 | Pamela Youngberg

A subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee heard testimony earlier this month on the human toll of rising insulin costs as a case study to better understand the impact on patients on prescription pricing overall. According to Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY 2nd District), “The prescription drug supply chain is complex, and it lacks transparency. There is limited public information around drug prices due to a lack of transparency around rebates and other price concessions.” The Kaiser Family Foundation recently reported that total Medicare Part D spending on insulin increased by 840% between 2007 and 2017, with no generics available and Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi dominating the market. In Minnesota, Attorney General Lori Swanson sued the three. While common wisdom (and massive advertising dollars spent by the Big Pharma lobby) justify high prices as attributable to the cost of R&D, rising insulin costs—which have been averaging 10 percent annually—may go a long way toward putting that argument to bed.

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