Magazine article Drug Topics

R.Ph.S Get Sympathetic Senate Hearing, Not Much Else Now

Magazine article Drug Topics

R.Ph.S Get Sympathetic Senate Hearing, Not Much Else Now

Article excerpt

Sen. William S. Cohen clearly was understanding. "It's a real problem for [pharmacists]," said the Maine Republican. "They're not compensated" for patient counseling. They have a "valid complaint." Cohen commented on the decline of retail pharmacies because of drug company pricing policies and the reliance on mail order and noted that it "does not necessarily bode well for the consumer." As for managed care, it has "great promise" but also "some peril."

But if pharmacy was looking for a legislative rescue mission from the 104th Congress led by the sympathetic Cohen, chairman of the Senate Aging Committee, it's not in the cards. "In this time of tight budgets and atmosphere of reducing government regulation, we must keep in mind that not all solutions can come from government," he said at a hearing last month on adverse drug reactions and the elderly. Cohen, who is not seeking reelection, said he hoped the hearing "will raise public awareness" about the high cost of inappropriate use of medications and that "consumers and health-care professionals can work together" to get the best use from Rxs.

That may be the best that can be hoped for from this Congress. But pharmacy groups appearing before the committee were seeking much more. "The continued survival of pharmacists is essential to finding a solution to the nation's pandemic of drug therapy failure," testified Calvin H. Knowlton, president of the American Pharmaceutical Association. "Outdated payment systems in effect at Medicare and most private payers should give way to systems that reward the productive work of preventing adverse effects of drugs. Little can be expected under a system that punishes this worthwhile activity."

Knowlton told Cohen how "penurious payments from third-party insurance plans drove me out of the dispensing business last November. After being a traditional dispensing pharmacy for 30 years, we could no longer afford gross margins of 7% to 11% on prescriptions purchased by the largest pharmacy benefit management firms."

Knowlton, who has restructured his Lumberton, N.J., pharmacy business to concentrate on providing pharmaceutical care services and medications to nursing home and hospice patients, made several suggestions on what Congress could do. He recommended payment to pharmacists when they collaborate successfully with physicians to solve a Medicare patient's drug therapy problems. He also urged changes in antitrust laws so doctors and pharmacists could set up networks to negotiate for Medicare managed care contracts. …

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