Magazine article Drug Topics

Pharmacists Press for Change in AIDS Drug's Distribution

Magazine article Drug Topics

Pharmacists Press for Change in AIDS Drug's Distribution

Article excerpt

Complaints by community pharmacists and the National Community Pharmacists Association have induced Serono Laboratories to reconsider a set of requirements that would have restricted access to Serostim (somatropin), its drug for AIDS-wasting syndrome.

As Drug Topics went to press, discussions between the company and NCPA promised to bring some changes in the requirements and make the drug more generally available.

Under existing rules set by Norwell, Mass.-based Serono, a pharmacy is required to do at least $300,000 a month, or 70% of its annual volume, in AIDSrelated business to qualify as a "special provider" of the drug. Serono spokeswoman Gina Cella said the company is recognizing that the requirements may be too restrictive and that it is willing to be "flexible" on these and other stipulations.

The other requirements include providing Serono with an audited financial statement, making available information about patients who purchase the drug, making records relating to the drug available for audit by the company, and participation in Medicaid. A pharmacy must also agree to purchase 20 packs of seven vials each and not to order the drug more than once a week. The cost of Serostim is $42 a milligram, and dosage is 5 or 6 mga day. The 20 packs would cost around $25,000, Cella said.

Serono's requirements have angered several community pharmacists, including some who could qualify. They have compared it to the situation created by Merck last April, when it made its protease inhibitor Crixivan available only through Stadtlanders Pharmacy, a mailorder firm in Pittsburgh.

"It's a form of steering, and that's wrong," said George Manos, owner of the Village Apothecary, in New York City's Greenwich Village, which does a heavy HIV business.

Cella rejected any analogy to Merck and the charge of steering. …

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