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Pharmacy Times
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Specialty Rx Prices Continue to Climb

The prices of specialty drugs most commonlyused by Medicare Part D beneficiarieshave risen faster than inflationevery year since 2004. In 2007, the pricehike was 8.7%, or nearly 3 times the generalrate of inflation, according to a reportrecently released by the AARP.

Specialty drugs are used to treat complex,chronic conditions and are currentlyamong the most expensive on themarket, with prices that can range from$5000 to >$300,000 per year, the AARPnoted.

"The skyrocketing cost of specialtydrugs is especially tragic for those sufferingfrom diseases like cancer andmultiple sclerosis," said John Rother,AARP executive vice president of policyand strategy. "These drugs can providecomfort and hope to these individualsand their families, but even the mostmiraculous drug is useless if a personcan't afford to take it."

The Generic Pharmaceutical Association(GPhA) agrees and believes thatCongressneeds to give the FDA theauthority to create a pathway for biogenerics."Without competition, therecan be no hope of relief for patientswho need these and many other biologicproducts," stated Kathleen Jaeger,president and chief executive officer ofGPhA. "This study proves what we haveconsistently stated—generic competitioncreates substantial savings for patients."

Flat-Rate Generics Popular, Survey Finds

The rise of flat-rate generic prescriptionpricing plans that charge a fixed price iscreating higher satisfaction for individualsat "brick and mortar" pharmacies whoparticipate in these programs, accordingto the 2008 National Pharmacy Study byJD Power and Associates.

Approximately one quarter of all pharmacypatients are taking advantage ofthese discount plans, according to thestudy, with the highest numbers drawnfrom patients aged 44 and older whoespecially like the predictability of lowprices for generic prescriptions, studyanalysts noted.

The study also found that health insuranceand Medicare Part D have drivenmore seniors to use mail-order pharmaciesto obtain medications for managingchronic conditions. Patients aged 65 andolder requested 26% of mail-order prescriptionsin 2008. For more information,go to


Kudos for CA E-pedigree Law

The Generic Pharmaceutical Association(GPhA) is praising the passage of legislationthat will establish an electronicpedigree (e-pedigree) system in Californiaaimed at helping to maintain the securityof the drug distribution chain againstcounterfeit drugs.

GPhA has been working with a coalitionof members throughout the entiredrug supply chain to develop solutions tostrengthen the pharmaceutical trackingsystem. The coalition has been conductingpilot studies to determine what systemswould be feasible for patients andthe health care system.

Under the California law, brand andgeneric manufacturers would commenceproviding e-pedigree and serialization oftheir products in 2015. "This implementationwill help manufacturers [in] establishingan electronic track and trace system,"noted Kathleen Jaeger, GPhA presidentand chief executive officer.

"Doughnut Hole" Leads Seniors to Generics

A recent study by Medco Health Solutionsfound that, when patients being treatedfor high cholesterol hit Medicare Part D's"doughnut hole," they were twice as likelyto abandon their medications. Thosetaking brand name cholesterol-loweringstatins were most at risk of stoppingtherapy once they hit the coverage gap.

The study shows that, during 2007,the rate of patients who suspendedgeneric statin treatment was 20% lowerthan those on a brand name medication.The analysis also revealed that reachingthe coverage gap stimulates the use ofgenerics among all Medicare recipients.During the initial phase of the benefit,when the plan provides drug coverage,one third of the medications used dailyby beneficiaries were generics, and twothirds were brand name drugs. Oncebeneficiaries reached the coverage gap,however, generic use rises to 71%, andbrand name use falls to 29%.

In light of these findings, GenericPharmaceutical Association Presidentand Chief Executive Officer KathleenJaeger urged physicians, health care providers,and payers to educate patientsabout the availability and value of genericmedicines.

"It is a tragedy that our seniors are forgoingtaking needed medicines becausethey can no longer afford them. Genericmedicines can stretch scarce resourcesand provide a life jacket for those seniorswho are at risk of stopping their medicationwhen they reach the doughnuthole," Jaeger said.

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