Latest news for pharmacists

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported May 3 a $37 million settlement was announced Thursday between West Virginia and McKesson Corp. for its role in fueling the opioid epidemic in a news release from Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. The lawsuit against McKession alleged the company failed to monitor the distribution of painkillers to pharmacies around the state, exacerbating the drug epidemic.

While the news release states that the $37 million is “believed to be” the nation’s largest state settlement against a single pharmaceutical distributor it is less than 1 percent of the company’s $208.4 billion annual revenue from fiscal year 2018 and just a little more than double McKesson CEO John Hammergren’s $18 million in 2018, said the news paper.

A second news article reports the U. S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the nation’a largest drug distributors teamed up Thursday to block the public release of information that would show the number of opioid painkillers the companies delivered to pharmacies across America.

A Justice Department lawyer told a three-judge panel that revealing the pill numbers would compromise ongoing investigations, even though the records date back five years. Lawyers for the media argued that the distributors and DEA have other motives for wanting to keep the information secret.

The disclosures could embarrass companies that shipped massive quantities of prescription pain pills like OxyContin to states (including WV) with populations that couldn’t possibly needed so many painkillers, and the DEA doesn’t want to have to explain why it didn’t stop the deluge of pills, allege the news media.

According to a May 3 USA TODAY report, federal health officials will require the makers of popular sleeping pills to add warning labels to certain prescription insomnia medications after reviewing cases of dangerous, sometimes fatal, incidents tied to the drugs.

“Black box” warning labels will be required for brand name drug including Lunesta, Sonata and Amblen, among others, to caution patients about the possible side effect, the Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday.

In a growing trend, CVS Caremark has joined the ranks of PBMs to begin offering a mail order network in both commercial and Medicare Part D networks. Caremark has recently contracted a number of pharmacies participating in Caremark retain networks requiring they accept a Mail Order Pharmacy Addendum. Caremark is requiring the pharmacies either accept a Mail Order Pharmacy Addendum voluntarily withdraw from all of Caremark’s commercial and/or Medicare Part D retail networks.

CVS Health reported a profit boost and higher revenues in its first full quarter of combined operations with Aetna. The company earned $1.4 billion in net income in the first quarter of 2019 compared to $998 million in the same period of 2018, an increase of 43, according to its latest earnings data.

The federal government estimates the number of U. S. deaths by opioid overdose reached 47,000 cases in 2017. In a new initiative to combat the scourge, the Food and Drug Administration announced new dosage forms, limited-quantity packaging and new research requirements on companies that make painkillers.

Federal prosecutors charged medical personnel with various schemes to distribute addictive pain pills, in what the Justice Department described as the “largest prescription opioid effort every undertaken.” The government said the charges covered 350,000 illegal prescriptions written in Kentucky, Alabama, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia. The charges named 31 doctors, seven pharmacists, eight nurses and others in the medical profession as having participated in knowingly providing addictive drugs to vulnerable patients.