Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tuesday Tidbits

OPM announced today that it will be circulating federal benefits news on a new Twitter feed, The FEHBlog was the fourteenth follower. OPM sent out a tweet today that its web page with information about 2012 FEHBP plans is live. The website shows a map of the United States and invites the viewer to click on a state which
takes you to a list of all plans available in that state, as well as links to the plan brochures, changes for each plan from the previous year, information on plan patient safety programs, and links to the plan provider directories.
Check it out.

Kaiser Health News reports on the impending transition of many blockbuster prescription drugs, such as Lipitor, Lexapro, and Plavis, to generic status. The article warns that

While blockbuster drugs like Lipitor are sunsetting, University of Michigan business school professor Erik Gordon says pharmaceutical companies are trying to replace them with new, more targeted drugs — like Pfizer's recently approved lung-cancer medication.
"The interesting thing is it will work in only 5 percent of lung cancer patients. The other interesting thing is it's going to cost $115,000 per year, per patient," Gordon says.
Some analysts say the growing field of costly specialty drugs could undermine the growing savings from generics. But Gordon says drug companies will still have their work cut out for them. It's getting tougher not only to come up with new drugs, he says, but also to convince insurers and the government to pay for them — unless they make meaningful improvements in health, at a reasonable cost.
Meanwhile the Wall Street Journal reveals that the reason for the contract dispute between the prescription benefit manager Express Scripts and the major pharmacy chain Walgreens is that Walgreens is demanding additional compensation for the patient counselling provided by its pharmacists.

Pharmacy-benefit managers are unlikely to agree to pay for extra services like medical counseling unless their clients demand it, says Dan Mendelson, chief executive of Avalere Health Inc., a consulting firm for health-care companies. "If the health plan demands it, the PBM will provide it," he says.
But so far, the "overwhelmingly vast majority" of Express Scripts' biggest clients don't want to pay more and are willing to stop using Walgreen, says a person who is familiar with Express Scripts' thinking.
Express Scripts remains open to doing business with Walgreen if the pharmacy accepts its terms, this person says. But support from its clients is "fortifying" its belief that it shouldn't budge in negotiations. Express Scripts also says its clients' costs would rise if it accepted Walgreen's current offer. Walgreen counters that its advisory services would save Express Scripts members $180 million a year, or $2 a prescription.
And the beat goes on.

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