A showcase of interesting drug study findings, relevant policy decisions and important pharmacy landscape patterns.
- In October, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a report estimating that Medicare beneficiaries have saved almost $5 billion on prescription drugs since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010. Savings were primarily achieved on medications used to treat cancer, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. According to HHS, the average Medicare beneficiary will save $5,000 between 2010 and 2022, and beneficiaries with high prescription drug costs will save an average of $18,000 during the same time period.1
- Also in October, physicians at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center announced a decision not to treat advanced colorectal cancer patients with Zaltrap® (ziv-aflibercept), noting that the cost of the drug – more than $11,000 for a month’s treatment – was twice that of similar medications offering similar benefits for survival.2 The manufacturer responded by offering a 50% discount on the drug, an unusual move in response to public pressure.
- In November, drug maker Ranbaxy announced a voluntary pharmacy-level recall of certain lots and dosage strengths of generic atorvastatin due to a possible contaminant and temporarily stopped manufacturing the medication until the problem could be resolved. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) affirmed that no patients were at risk during this process.3
- Also in November, the FDA announced the approval of Flucelvax® (influenza virus vaccine), the first flu vaccine utilizing cultured animal cells (instead of fertilized chicken eggs) to be licensed in the U.S. This production method allows for stockpiling and facilitates the speed of new production in the event of increased demand.4
- A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that diabetes diagnoses increased dramatically among all age groups, in both sexes and across racial/ethnic lines between 1995 and 2010. Although increases were seen in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, the prevalence of the condition rose more than 10% in Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, South Carolina and West Virginia.5
1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. People with Medicare save $4.8 billion on prescription drugs because of the health care law. October 25, 2012. Available at: http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2012pres/10/20121025a.html. Accessed December 21, 2012.
2. Bach PB, Saltz LB, Wittes RE. In cancer care, cost matters. The New York Times. October 14, 2012: A25. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/15/opinion/a-hospital-says-no-to-an-11000-a-month-cancer-drug.html?_r=0. Accessed January 11, 2013.
3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA Statement on the Ranbaxy Atorvastatin Recall. November 30, 2012. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm329951.htm. Accessed December 20, 2012.
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cell-based flu vaccines. January 9, 2013. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/cell-based.htm. Accessed January 11, 2013.
5. Geiss LS, Li Y, Kirtland K, Barker L, Burrows NR, Gregg EW. Increasing prevalence of diagnosed diabetes — United States and Puerto Rico, 1995-2010. MMWR. 2012; 61(45): 918-921. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6145a4.htm?s_cid=mm6145a4_w. Accessed December 21, 2012.