Tuesday, January 27, 2015

News Roundup, January 2014: AmerisourceBergen, Walgreens Boots Alliance, Express Scripts, and New 340B Abuses

Winter has arrived at our worldwide headquarters. While you are snowed in, please enjoy this month’s hand-picked artisanal selection of articles from the Drug Channels universe.
  • Meet Ornella Barra, the Walgreens Alliance Boots Exec Joining AmerisourceBergen’s Board
  • Express Scripts Preannounces its Next Specialty Drug Formulary Battle
  • A Nonprofit 340B Hospital Sues Its Poorest Patients: The Unsafety Net?
Plus, The Onion publishes an important anti-vaccination article. It’s your must-forward article of the week!

P.S. Follow @Drug Channels for my daily updates on noteworthy news and analysis.

AmerisourceBergen Elects Ornella Barra to Its Board of Directors (press release)
For those who don’t know her, Ornella Barra runs the global wholesale and international retail businesses of Walgreen Boots Alliance. She has also been Stefano Pessina’s partner for more than 30 years. (Mr. Pessina is the industry’s new billionaire global overlord, as described Watch Stefano Pessina Discuss the New WBA.)

Ms. Barra has her own hagiographic website at http://www.ornellabarra.com/, which is really quite astounding. If you’re looking for a new screen saver, might I suggest her photo gallery?

Express Scripts, PCSK9s, Gilead, and Shire: More from JPM15 and BTS15, BioPharma Dive
At the recent JP Morgan healthcare conference, Express Scripts CEO George Paz trash-talked emerging PCSK9 inhibitors. Multiple companies, including Merck and Sanofi/Regeneron, are expected to have products in this therapeutics class. Consistent with How PBMs Profit From the Hepatitis C Formulary Wars...And What It Means for Specialty's Future, PBMs will focus on new formulary battles as specialty classes get crowded with multiple therapeutic alternatives.

When Nonprofit Hospitals Sue Their Poorest Patients, NPR
Here’s more evidence that the 340B Drug Pricing Program needs reform. From the story: “Thousands of people around St. Joseph have been sued by the hospital and had their wages seized to pay for medical bills. Some of them, given their income, could have qualified to get their bill forgiven entirely—but the hospital seized their wages anyway.” Ick.

The hospital in the NPR story is Heartland Regional Medical Center, which is a 340B covered entity (340B ID = SCH260006). According to the HRSA database, Heartland has 44 contract pharmacy relationships—an ongoing source of 340B abuses. (In the only government study of contract pharmacies, only 5 out of the 15 hospitals offered uninsured patients the 340B discount prescription price. Shameful.)

Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), now chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is very interested. Should be a fun year for 340B!

I Don’t Vaccinate My Child Because It’s My Right To Decide What Eliminated Diseases Come Roaring Back, The Onion
As you may have heard, some parents are refusing to vaccinate their children. Here’s a compelling opinion piece from an anti-vaccination advocate. She writes: “You may choose to follow the government-recommended immunization schedule for your child, and that’s your decision as a parent. And I might choose to unleash rubella on thousands upon thousands of helpless people, and that’s my decision as a parent.

Who can argue with that logic? Certainly not celebrity scientist Jenny McCarthy!

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