WVPA: December 11

United Health Group’s OptumRx plans to acquire Diplomat Pharmacy, a specialty drug company that treats cancer patients and others with complex medical conditions. Specialty drugs are becoming big business for pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs).

State and local governments across the country continue to file civil lawsuits against opioid manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors and healthcare providers. As part of these suits, plaintiffs have been issuing subpoenas to pharmacies that purchased products, including opioids, from wholesalers and distributors.

A coalition of national pharmacy groups applauded the latest version of the bipartisan Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act, released December 6 by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, which they say addresses backdoor clawback fees charged by large PBMs that are shuttering pharmacies and costing patients more at the pharmacy counter. The legislation represents reform that will generate savings and create pricing transparency for pharmacy patients, and put a stop to the predatory practice of imposing fees on pharmacies long after the point of sale and charging patients more up front for their drugs.

The legislation (S. 2543) will require pharmacy price concessions and DIR fees to be included in the negotiated price at point of sale for Medicare Part D starting January 1, 2022. It will prohibit plans and PBMs from retroactive recoupment.

31.8% of independent pharmacies report falling behind on payments to their distributors this year. The culprit is DIR fees under Medicare Part D. The practice of PBMs clawing back a portion of payments made to pharmacies when they are found to fall short of performance targets are the biggest problem confronting independents, according 62.9% of survey respondents. The No. 2 concern, declining reimbursements resulting from other factors, is cited by just 22.3%.

Amazon is rolling out medication reminders as a new feature of its Alexa device in partnership with pharmacy chain Giant Eagle. This could be the first step in the tech giant’s broader effort to use the voice assistant to help consumers manager their medications.

The opioid epidemic is now responsible for killing more than 100 Americans every day.

One in three Americans under 65 who are prescribed heart meds either skip pills, lower their dosage, or don’t fill their prescriptions because of the cost. Among Medicare patients, that number is about one in nine…that’s about 2.2 million or 12.6% who can’t afford their medication.

WV Department of Health and Human Resources announced its Office of Medical Cannabis will begin accepting permit applications for medical cannabis growers, processors, dispensaries and laboratories on December 19, 2019. “This is the first step in the process to make medical cannabis available to West Virginians with serious medical conditions,” said Jason Frame, Director of the WV Office of Medical Cannabis.

People with type 1 diabetes should avoid using marijuana regularly. Anything more than occasional use make them more than twice as likely to develop potentially fatal complications, specifically diabetic ketoacidosis. On the other hand…people suffering from migraines found that inhaling cannabis reduced those symptoms by almost half.

Two West Virginia lawmakers and a health care organization are organizing a bus trip to Canada to allow people the opportunity to take advantage of that country’s lower prescription drug costs. Delegates Barbara Fleischauer, D-Morgantown, and Jordan Hill, R-Nicolas, are organizing the trip with West Virginia Insulin for All. They say the cost of insulin nearly doubled between 2012 and 2016, as the price for other drugs also increased.

West Virginia pharmacy techs “out-shine” other states’ techs with exams. 67% of WV techs passed the national Pharmacy Technician Certification exam, compared to 60% nationally.

Starting in 2020, the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board, the nation’s leading certifying organization for pharmacy technicians, will change its eligibility requirements for the Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) Program and update its Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCB).

PTCB will offer two pathways for technicians submitting certification applications beginning January 1, 2020. One will be completion of a PTCB-recognized education/training, and the other will be equivalent work experience.