News of interest to pharmacists

CMS released an updated drug dashboard March 14 with Medicaid and Medicare spending data showing how much drug prices have increased in five-year span. That includes everything from insulin to the priciest hepatitis C drugs to a sore throat medication that now costs $5,000 per dosage unit. Plus,

HHS Secretary Alex Azar said the agency is in talks with states considering Medicaid block grants. Block grants proposed several years ago were financially detrimental to West Virginia pharmacies.

The court battle to keep secret much of the information in a state report that is unflattering to two pharmacy middlemen continues to rage. Lawyers for the Ohio Department of Medicaid have accused pharmacy giant CVS of burying it and its analyst with demands for irrelevant information. OptumRx, the other large pharmacy benefit manager serving Ohio Medicaid, put people under oath — in part to ask who shared information with Ohio’s newspaper, The Dispatch.

Senate Bill 489 passed by the WV Legislature in March 2019, improves compliance by PBMs operating in West Virginia as well as paying fees. Of major importance, the new law prohibits an auditing entity from seeking a fee, charge-back, recoupment or other adjustment from a pharmacy or pharmacist except in certain circumstances. The West Virginia Pharmacists Association supported the legislation.

According to The Pew Charitable Trusts, as various members of the drug supply chain blame one another for rising prescription drug costs, they’re all making a lot of money off of said drugs. Between 2012 and 2016, net spending on drugs sold in pharmacies rose from $250.7 billion to $341 billion, according to a new Pew analysis. Pharmacy revenue more than doubled, and the profits of pharmacy benefit managers and drug manufacturers also increased, says Pew.

As cited in House Bill 2849 passed by the 2019 Legislature, technicians, under the direct supervision of licensed pharmacist, can perform product verification where no clinical judgement is necessary and the pharmacist makes the final verification. The technician is to furnish to the Board of Pharmacy an affidavit signed by the supervising pharmacists-in-charge attesting to the applicants competency in the advanced areas of practice that he or she will practice.

Also according to the new law, an technician is to have worked as a full-time registered pharmacy technician holding a pharmacy technician in WV for at least the previous two years, or, worked as a full-time registered pharmacy technician holding a license in good standing in another jurisdiction for at least the previous two years.

A small number of companies — Express Scripts, OptumRx and CVS Caremark — control the majority of the marketplace for pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs).