Briefs of interest to pharmacists

CVS Health Corp. said it is making “good progress” on getting regulatory approval for its $68 billion deal to buy health insurer Aetna Inc., — one of two megamergers in the health-care industry that are under antitrust scrutiny.  The second merger includes Cigna purchasing Express Scripts.   The CVS-Aetna and Cigna-Express Scripts deals are both so-called vertical transactions that combine companies operating in different parts of the same sector: health insurance and pharmacy benefit management.  The two deals are being reviewed by the Justice Department.

CVS’s proposed takeover of Aetna would bring together around 10,000 stores and the health insurer’s 22 million customers.   A central plank of the deal is transforming the stores into health hubs where consumers can get care, pick up their drugs, buy some cosmetics, and stay out of the hospital.

Recent guidelines that lower the threshold for hypertension treatment likely will raise costs by increasing the number of people receiving treatment, yet they wide range of generic medications available likely will moderate cost increases.  In 2017, the American College of Cardiology/American Health Association published a new set of guidelines and recommended starting treatment at 130/80 mm Hg rather than the previous commonly accepts threshold of 140/90 mm Hg.

The American Society of Consultant Pharmacists (ASCP) has been working for years with the Patient Access to Pharmacists’ Care Coalition to advocate for recognition of pharmacists as health care providers by Medicare so that patients can have better access to services that pharmacists can provide.   ASCP requests pharmacists to write their members of Congress and request they co-sponsor H.R. 592 and S. 109, “Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act.”  (WV Pharmacists Association has written letters to West Virginia’s Congressional delegation.)

Sunday (May 6) night’s broadcast of “60 Minutes” highlighted an issue that community pharmacy knows all too well.  The segment, “The Problem with Prescription Drug Prices” told the story of Rockford, III, and the high prices that city pays for its employee prescription drug program, managed by Express Scripts, the nation’s largest PBM.   Express Scripts official said it was not “contractually obligated” to contain costs.

PLAN TO ATTEND: WVPA 111th Annual Convention, August 18, 2018, Charleston Marriott Hotel