Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Drug Channels News Roundup: May 2012

It’s May! The trees are blooming, the sun is shining, and the birds are singing. But you’d rather stay inside and enjoy my monthly look at noteworthy news stories from the Drug Channels universe, right?

News stories...Assemble!
  • A new benefit design for Stark Industries? Humana and Walmart launch a preferred pharmacy network for the commercial market.
  • Loki would be proud. The FDA reminds 108 physician practices not to buy from dubious sources. Really?!?
  • Hulk Smash Buy-and-Bill! UnitedHealth’s Lee Newcomer makes the case against current reimbursement models. Just don't make Dr. Newcomer angry. You wouldn't like him when he's angry.
Plus, The Onion reports on Walgreen's unusual new social media tool. I wonder if it's the same technology used by the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division?

Humana Introduces Innovative Pharmacy Offerings That Guarantee Cost Savings and Predictability for Employers
Building on the astounding success of the Humana Walmart-Preferred Rx Plan in Medicare Part D, Humana and Walmart just announced a similar plan targeted at the commercial employer market. Walmart once again shows that it is willing to blow up the traditional pharmacy profit model to boost store traffic, while Humana flexes its marketing muscle. Preferred and limited network plans demonstrate the power of competition in a highly-saturated retail pharmacy industry. Express Scripts was able to transition Walgreens out of its network with minimal beneficiary disruption, so perhaps this new model will gain traction. Stay tuned.

Letters to Doctors about Risks of Purchasing Medications from Foreign or Unlicensed Suppliers
Sigh. The FDA has now felt compelled to scold doctors about buying from shady suppliers. FDA sent letters to 108 practices in 15 states, “urging” them “to examine their purchasing practices to ensure that they buy directly from the manufacturer or from licensed wholesale drug distributors in the United States.” Really?!? California was the winner, with practices receiving 49 of these friendly reminders. An argument for e-pedigree? Or for physicians to accept ethical and legal responsibilities for skinflint sourcing decisions that harm patients? For background, see Greedy Physicians Invite Fake Avastin Into the Supply Chain and What's Behind Counterfeit Drug Demand. For solutions, see To Limit Counterfeits, Build a Solid Channel Strategy. For shame.

Changing Physician Incentives For Cancer Care To Reward Better Patient Outcomes Instead Of Use Of More Costly Drugs
In this provocative essay, Lee Newcomer provides a history of buy-and-bill, lays out the problems, and proposes two alternatives—clinical pathways and bundled payments. Dr. Newcomer, who is SVP of Oncology Services at UnitedHeath, has been a vocal critic of physician reimbursement for office-administered drugs. When UnitedHealth launched its cost-plus effort in 2010, he told the Wall Street Journal that physicians had “…become drug dealers.” See UnitedHealthcare: Cost-Plus for Cancer Drugs. This article is well worth your time. While Dr. Newcomer doesn't mention it, reimbursement pressures are partly responsible for physicians doing stupid things like sourcing from unsavory sources.

New Walgreens Facebook Plugin Allows Users To See What Prescriptions Friends Are Picking Up
The Onion, America’s Finest News Source, reports on Walgreens latest effort to boost its social media presence. Somehow, I don't think this will be enough to win back all of that  Express Scripts business...


  1. AnonymousMay 02, 2012

    How is Walgreens program legal? It looks like a clear violation of HIPAA.

  2. If you browse some of the other features on the website you'll note it is satirical.

  3. Broncofan7May 10, 2012

    The Walmart/ Humana Plan is anti-competitive on it's face. Some states have an "any willing provider statute" and benefit designs such as these clearly violate those statutes. These plans are in fact not offered to ANY WILLING PROVIDER. Furthermore, the majority of patients hate going to Walmart for anything, let alone waiting 4 hours for their essential maintenance medications. Walmart Pharmacies are understaffed for the volume that they deal with now(hence the extremely long wait times, poor service levels and higher than average error rates, don't believe me? ask anyone who works for Walmart as a Pharmacist or Technician) You get what you pay for and in plans such as these, the HR departments are going to be paying for their bad choice by an increase in ER visit expenses due to the lack of employee medication adherence because of  the barriers that the poor service levels of Walmart Pharmacies create coupled with countless complaints of them not receiving their mail order Rx's on time. you'll see the increase on the medical side folks........