What to Know

Giving it a shot

The APhA says pharmacists should be allowed to give injections beyond just vaccines.

A little too much pressure

Another drug company caught using, er, questionable tactics to sell. This time it’s Alexion, and it apparently pushed its Soliris just a little too hard.

[L]ast November, Alexion announced it was conducting an internal probe into its sales practices. It eventually concluded that management had failed to set the appropriate “tone at the top.”

What gives rural pharmacists heartburn?

DIR fees top the list, according to a new study of rural pharmacists’ concerns.

Nearly 80% of respondents reported DIR fees as a very large magnitude challenge, with 83.3% reporting this as a very immediate challenge.

WHO spends a heck of a lot on staff travel

In a shocking development, a (quasi-) government agency is spending as much or more on luxury accommodations than on, you know, helping people.

According to internal documents obtained by The Associated Press, the U.N. health agency routinely has spent about $200 million a year on travel expenses, more than what it doles out to fight some of the biggest problems in public health, including AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.

Kids these days

You may just think they’re nasty, brutish, and short… but they’re also good at telling when you’re lying.

Gottlieb, the FDA, and opioids

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb sent a memo to staff: We need to do what we can to help with the opioid crisis, and he wants ideas for “more forceful” ways to help. Two possibilities: a federal requirement for physician training on opioids, and limits on prescription length.

The czar can stay

Yesterday we mentioned some of the health-related proposals in Trump’s budget, but we left something out: After a big outcry, the budget he submitted to Congress would not cut the Office of National Drug Control Policy by 95 percent, as his original proposal would have. The new proposal suggests much smaller cuts.

Here, have an excuse

Chocolate, it seems, might cut your risk of irregular heartbeat.

OK, this is just a little too creepy

The Defense Department, FBI, and HHS are reportedly investigating Universal Health Services, which runs the country’s largest chain of psychiatric hospitals, for keeping patients longer than necessary.

According to three sources with direct knowledge of the investigation, officials are examining whether Universal Health Services directs its hospitals to hold patients for as many days as their insurer agrees to pay for, regardless of actual medical need. The probe has been ongoing since at least 2013, when the Department of Health and Human Services issued subpoenas to 10 of UHS’ psychiatric hospitals.

Elsewhere

Texas wants to allow some unproven drugs to be sold to patients, but scientists worry that would allow snake oil to raise — and shatter — hopes.

In Ohio, Democrats and Republicans are behind a bill that would limit the costs of drugs to the state government (e.g., Medicaid) to the lowest price paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs. But opponents, including the Ohio Pharmacists Association and pharmaceutical companies, say it will “lead to bureaucratic delays, lawsuits and higher costs for taxpayers.”

Nevada might pass a bill that would require transparency in insulin pricing, and could even set some pricing limits.

—Andrew Kantor • May. 25, 2017

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Not even one

Even a single glass of wine a day increases breast cancer risk, according to a report from the American Institute for Cancer Research that “analyzed 119 studies, including data on 12 million women and 260,000 cases of breast cancer.”

The convention app is ready

With the Georgia Pharmacy Convention less than a month away, it’s time to download the 2017 convention app.

It has the full schedule of events, will give notifications about any changes (e.g., if a session is moved), and lets you share photos and messages with other attendees.

It was a lot of fun last year, so grab it now so you can fill out your profile. It’s free, of course!

Click here for the Android phone/tablet version (or go to the Play Store).

For the iPhone version, head to the App Store.

The budget skinny on the “skinny budget”

Trump released his budget proposal; here’s what’s interesting on the health and medicine front, courtesy of Stat (which saved me the trouble of retyping):

  • Medicaid’s budget would be slashed $610 billion over the next decade — in addition to the $839 billion that would be cut if the AHCA passes. It isn’t clear yet where in the program those cuts would take place.
  • The NIH budget would be cut by 18 percent from 2017 spending levels, down to $26 billion. The National Cancer Institute, which falls under the NIH umbrella, would see a budget cut of 19 percent.
  • The CDC budget would take a 17 percent cut, which shakes out to a $6.3 billion decrease in funding. Spending on HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, sexually transmitted infections, and tuberculosis prevention would be reduced by 17 percent. The CDC’s global health program — which is responsible for helping fight disease outbreaks abroad — would take an 18 percent cut.
  • The FDA would see a 31 percent decrease in direct government funding, leaving the agency with a $1.9 billion budget. The administration is hoping to offset that loss with a $1.3 billion increase in revenue from the user fees that drug and medical device makers pay when applying for FDA approval.

It would also eliminate federal student-loan subsidies, which may or may not affect student pharmacists. This is just a proposal, of course; it’s Congress that passes the budget. The Medicaid cuts are likely to be the most contentious; Republican and Democrat governors alike have expressed concern about them.

When it comes to Medicaid dollars received, Georgia falls somewhere in the middle of the pack.

Elsewhere

Florida is preemptively fighting Zika with mosquito eradication efforts.

Like most countries, Canada sets limits on drug prices. It determines those prices based on comparisons with seven other countries, including the U.S. But now it wants to remove the U.S. from that comparison list, because our prices are so high, it’s throwing the comparison out of whack.

—Andrew Kantor • May. 23, 2017

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GPhA Buzz is gluten-free

Gluten, says a new study from Harvard and Columbia, doesn’t cause heart disease. “Duh,” says the author of an article in the Atlantic, it doesn’t cause rickets or global warming either.

But that hasn’t stopped a multi-million-dollar gluten-free business from popping up — along with unproven (and silly) claims that eating wheat is akin to smoking.

Check out “Science Has Begun Taking Gluten Seriously,” which tells the whole story of gluten, celiac disease, and the quackery that’s sprung up around it.

Aetna targets dentists

Aetna is turning its data-filled eye* to dentists and oral surgeons who are giving patients a few too many painkillers — specifically, the top one percent of opioid prescribers.

Using claims data, Aetna pinpointed dentists and oral surgeons who prescribed a greater than seven-day supply of opioids at least four times over a two-year period. Earlier this year, Aetna sent personal letters to the 480 dentists and 249 oral and maxillofacial surgeons who fit the bill and warned them….

*Yeah, that’s a pretty lousy metaphor

Reminder: DSME accreditation could be free

If you’re interested in getting diabetes self-management education accreditation for your pharmacy — free of charge — listen up.

Normally, DSME accreditation costs $900. The Georgia Department of Public Health is offering to pay that fee because it wants more Georgia pharmacies on board.

If you and your pharmacy want to make a difference in the lives of Georgia patients (and offer new, billable services), then you’ll want to sign up for accreditation.

How easy is it. Click here to fill out a simple form to get started.

Not this again

Meth could be making a comeback. Great.

In 2015, the most recent year for which federal data are available, nearly 4,900 meth users died of an overdose, a 30 percent jump in one year.

This is how apocalyptic movies start

The CDC is reporting more cases of the multidrug-resistant Candida auris fungus. Last spring there were zero. Then it started appearing, often infecting sick people — it can spread from skin to skin. The count is now up to about 77 people.

The scary part: 45 people who were in touch with the infected also carried the fungus, but weren’t sick. Oh, and it has about a 30 percent fatality rate.

Refinancing the FDA

Tom Price wants to bring more money to the FDA by increasing industry fees and stopping federal funding altogether. One advantage he points out: By removing federal funding, the FDA would be free of congressional budget battles.

Elsewhere

Post-Brexit, everyone wants to be the new home of the European Medicines Agency — especially its 900 well-paid jobs for educated people (and the economic boost that comes with them).

In Maine, which is considering requiring Medicaid recipients to work, those recipients are saying it’s the other way around: they need healthcare in order to be able to work.

In Tennessee, a rural hospital has turned to GoFundMe to try to raise money to stay afloat. (Spoiler: It’s not looking so good.)

—Andrew Kantor • May. 20, 2017

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Enough with the CETB inhibitors already

They don’t work. Eli Lilly’s evacetrapib just failed (sorry, it “did not result in a lower rate of cardiovascular events than placebo,” making it the third company to go down that road only to [insert metaphor here].

This sounds familiar

The feds are suing UnitedHealth for overcharging Medicare by One. Billion. Dollars. Again.

Why are people paying more for drugs?

Consumer Reports says the answers are 1) High-deductible insurance plans, 2) PBMs putting drugs in higher tiers, and 3) Insurers passing along the cost of new, high-priced drugs. Oh, and 4) physicians may not be prescribing the least expensive effective treatment.

Its top suggestion for consumers: Ask your pharmacist about lower-cost alternatives. (And guess what? Thanks to Georgia’s new law, a PBM can’t prohibit you from discussing this with your patients!)

My, what big teeth you have

Before you shoot up, remember to test your heroin for fentanyl — using a handy test strip, of course.

AEP releases 2017 convention T-shirt design

Here’s a look at the back of the official 2017 Georgia Pharmacy Convention T-shirt design, courtesy of the Academy of Employee Pharmacists:

It’ll be available for purchase at the convention, so be sure you’re registered and ready to come to Amelia Island on June 15 to 18!

The 340B program is growing… and growing

The 340B Drug Discount program, in which drugmakers are required to give steep discounts to healthcare organizations that treat low-income patients, now accounts for five percent of the U.S. drug market: $16.2 billion.

Elsewhere

Jamaica wants to get into the medical tourism business, too, inviting both physicians and patients to come for the surgery, stay for the lovely beaches.

—Andrew Kantor • May. 18, 2017

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We know you’re getting a lot of e-mails

GPhA members have been getting a lot of e-mail from us lately, and we apologize.

It’s a rare confluence: Introducing our new CEO, board of directors elections coming up, and the Georgia Pharmacy Convention being only a month away.

Don’t worry — the tide will be ebbing soon. Thanks for bearing with us as we try to keep you informed!

Alexa, refill my prescription

Amazon is looking at getting into the retail pharmacy business.

Diabetes drug could lead to amputations

Got patients on Invokana? Don’t make any “cost you an arm and a leg” jokes.

First fatality from “gray death”

We told you about the “gray death” — an opioid cocktail that looks like concrete mix. Now the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is reporting the state’s first death from it: a 24-year-old woman from Brookhaven.

Desperate people trade for pricey drugs

People who can’t afford the drugs they need are turning to the black market — on Facebook.

When her husband switched jobs and insurance plans, [Amy Leyendecker] panicked when the new plan wouldn’t cover her brand of insulin, Humalog, made by Eli Lilly. Her costs shot up from under $25 a month to over $900 according to receipts from her pharmacy — unaffordable for the blue-collar single-income family living paycheck to paycheck. In a panic, she reached out online.

Letter to Membership: Meet our new CEO

On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Georgia Pharmacy Association, I am pleased to report the selection or Robert “Bob” Coleman of Canton as the association’s new chief executive officer.

Your board, after careful consideration upon a thorough screening and vetting process, came to unanimous agreement that Bob is the right candidate to lead GPhA into the future.

Bob is a native of Atlanta and graduate of the University of Georgia with a BBA in Management and an MBA. For the past 23 years he has held various leadership roles for the world’s largest and most-recognized SCUBA diver training organization, the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI).

Most recently he served as PADI’s vice president for the International Retail and Resort Association, with responsibility to approximately 2,000 members in the Americas Territory. As a member of a four-person leadership team for PADI Americas and reporting to the CEO of PADI Worldwide, Bob shared responsibility for the bottom line profitability of the company.

During his tenure, he grew PADI membership annually through impressive membership retention and acquisition efforts. He also coordinated and managed numerous marketing campaigns and political efforts, including attempts by state and federal agencies to ‘regulate’ the diving industry; for the most part, the diving industry continues to be self-regulated.

Bob spent the early years of his career in the cable television industry in Texas and California where he delivered customer-focused solutions combined with superior financial performance. He was also heavily involved in government relations with local and state leaders to allow and maintain franchise renewals in cable system areas.

Bob will assume CEO duties effective May 16, 2017. The board is excited to have Bob join the GPhA team. Bob has built his career on growing businesses and helping people; these two tenets are core to the viability and success of the pharmacy profession. His passion for the people he represents will leave you inspired, and I look forward to working closely with Bob as he leads GPhA on its continued path forward.

In closing, I would like to thank the members of the GPhA Board of Directors for their diligence and time as we have navigated the search process. We are also deeply indebted to our search consultant, Charles Hall, and his firm, Association Services Group. The GPhA membership and the pharmacy profession of Georgia will benefit from their hard work for many years to come.

Lance P. Boles, RPh, MBA
2016-2017 GPhA President
and Chair of the Board of Directors

Elsewhere

The New York State Assembly has passed a bill that would roll state funds as well as federal for Medicare, Medicaid, and Child Health Plus into a universal health system for all state residents. The state’s senate has failed to pass a similar bill before, but this year it has the support of eight independents, which could tip the balance.

—Andrew Kantor • May. 17, 2017

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Pharmacy and tech license renewals

Remember, pharmacy licenses and technician licenses must be renewed every two years — that is, every odd year. The deadline for the upcoming renewal period is June 30, 2017.

Georgia’s smack-dab in the middle

That is, in state rankings of illicit drug use — we’re right in the middle at #25.

A good ripple effect

Cure hep C, and more organs are available for transplant.

One drug for another

Medication-assisted therapy for addiction — yes, it works, but there are caveats.

“The drug that we’re replacing is a dangerous one that will kill you, and we’re replacing it with a drug that allows you to go back to work and have money in your pocket and allow you to live normally again.”

What, you thought it was over?

Anthem and Cigna’s merger may be off, but now it’s time for the penalty round.

Anthem said Friday that Cigna sabotaged the merger agreement and caused “massive damages” for Anthem, which provides Blue Cross-Blue Shield coverage in several states. It said it plans to “vigorously pursue” its claims against Cigna.

‘Yelp for drugs’

Sermo lets physicians (oddly, not pharmacists) rate drugs based on efficacy, safety, and other factors.

And the rest

In a new poll, 51 percent of people said they trust the pharmaceutical industry.

Donald Trump gives his vision of health insurance to the Economist:

Insurance is, you’re 20 years old, you just graduated from college, and you start paying $15 a month for the rest of your life and by the time you’re 70, and you really need it, you’re still paying the same amount and that’s really insurance.” (Scroll down about 3/4 of the story.)

Missouri remains the only state without a prescription drug monitoring program after a bill to create one failed.

Virginia receives almost $10 million to fight opioid abuse.

—Andrew Kantor • May. 16, 2017

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Needle-phobic pharmacist’s case rejected

The Second Circuit refused to rehear the case of the pharmacist with trypanophobia* who was fired from Rite-Aid when he was required to provide vaccinations. He sought protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act. (Note: Link goes to a subscription site, so it’s more to prove I didn’t make that up, rather than give you more to read.)

* We like using big words

The U.S. intelligence community is concerned about fentanyl

It’s listed under the heading “Transnational Organized Crime” because use and importation of the powerful opioid “pose[s] a strong and probably growing threat.” The reason: “Crime Enables Other Nefarious Actors.” Here’s the report; scroll to page 10.

Birdie, birdie overseas, will you bring us your disease?

The good news: If the spreading avian flu becomes a pandemic, there’s a company that makes a vaccine.

The bad news: There’s only one company. And that has U.S. health officials concerned.

First autistic Georgian gets license to possess cannabis oil

State Rep Allen Peake reported that Jennifer Conforti, mom of an autistic child, was the first person to receive a license from the state to possess the oil.

It’s not really a shock, is it?

Hep C cases are on the rise thanks to dirty needles and the opioid epidemic.

Things you don’t want to hear from a helicopter at the beach

You are paddleboarding next to approximately 15 great white sharks. Exit the water in a calm manner.”

That’s why when you’re at the Georgia Pharmacy Convention, you’ll want to spend your downtime between education sessions networking, visiting vendors in the Expo hall, or enjoying all the resort has to offer… on land.

(Come on, that was a great segué.)

Judge to Anthem: Yeah, Cigna can break up with you

If you have trouble keeping up with double-negatives, you’re gonna hate the lede from this story about the end of the Anthem-Cigna merger:

A Delaware judge on Thursday refused Anthem Inc.’s request to extend a temporary ban blocking Cigna Corp. from pulling out of proposed $48 billion merger while Anthem tries to persuade federal officials to drop their objections to the deal.

—Andrew Kantor • May. 15, 2017

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The 10 percent solution

The pharmaceutical industry trade group — PhRMA — now requires members to spend at least 10 percent of their global sales dollars on research. It’s already kicked out 22 companies for not meeting the requirement. The goal is to revamp the industry’s image.

If it was a snake, it would’ve bit me (it did)

Snake bites in Georgia are up 50 percent from last year — and last year set a record! Why: Higher temperatures means snakes are active for longer.

Good news: You probably won’t die from a bite. (Get to a hospital, though. Don’t assume it’s not venomous.)

Bad news: Anti-venom vials runs from $15,000 to $20,000 a pop, and most people need four to six of them… but possibly up to 40.

Tip if bit: Don’t wash the wound; the hospital needs to ID the venom.

Fun fact: Venom is injected (like from a snake); poison is absorbed or ingested (like from a poisonous plant).

The tax refund can wait.

Grasping at … pins?

The FDA is proposing new guidelines that would recommend physicians learn about acupuncture and chiropractic care as alternatives to prescription opioids for pain management.

A message from GPhA’s president

On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Georgia Pharmacy Association, I would like to express our gratitude for the leadership of Dianne Jones, vice president of finance and administration, and Greg Reybold, vice president of public policy and association counsel.

Since January 27, 2017, Dianne and Greg have jointly served as interim co-CEOs for GPhA. We are fortunate to have had these two talented and dedicated individuals to lead our staff over the past four months.

GPhA is blessed with a great team and under Dianne and Greg’s leadership, our staff members have performed exceptionally well in delivering legislative successes, member services, and are in the final stages of planning another stellar convention. I am personally thankful for having had the opportunity to work with and learn from our exceptional staff as they have admirably stepped-up and taken on expanded responsibilities.

As we announce the selection of a new CEO for GPhA in the coming days, we should recognize and express our appreciation to Dianne Jones, Greg Reybold, and our entire GPhA staff for their exceptional service to our membership, particularly these past few months. We are indeed most fortunate for those who make up the GPhA team!

Lance Boles, RPh, MBA
2016-2017 GPhA President

Elsewhere

Ohio’s House of Representatives voted unanimously to allow pharmacists to offer patients a less-expensive EpiPen substitute without needing a new prescription. (Some physicians write “EpiPen” on prescriptions, and this would make substitutions easier.)

Similar laws are pending in four other states.

—Andrew Kantor • May. 15, 2017

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Georgia woman suffering from Stevens Johnson Syndrome

A Georgia woman whose skin “melted from the inside out” because of an error in a lamotrigine prescription — leading to Stevens Johnson Syndrome — was the subject of a channel 11 story. It’s a heart-breaking tale, and it calls out the rising number of medication errors of late, and (not surprisingly) asks what might be done.

Limiting the number of prescriptions a pharmacist can fill, as suggested by a UGA pharmacy professor?

Jeff Lurey, with the Georgia Pharmacy Association, disagrees. “Patients come into the pharmacy at different times when they need to get medication filled. To put a restriction, I’m not so sure that’s in the best interest of our patients,” he said. “I’m just not convinced that cuts down on [medication] errors.”

Training pharmacists is likely to have a big impact — teaching best practices and how to be sure you don’t miss a warning sign.

One good piece of advice for patients: If you’re taking a new medication, talk to your pharmacist. Not only will you get information you may not have, it adds an extra check in the process — a chance for a pharmacist to say, “Hang on, lemme check with your physician.”

Note: GPhA offers “Preventing Medication Errors in the Retail Setting: What Pharmacists MUST Know, Do, and Say” — a six-part, one-hour CPE webinar — free to all Georgia pharmacists and technicians.

Express Scripts launches discount program for uninsured

Express Scripts launched a new program for the 30-some-odd million Americans without health insurance: A plan called “Inside Rx” that will give discounts on about 40 common prescriptions, letting them buy the drugs at a similar price to what larger insurance companies negotiate. They’ll still pay more than people who have insurance.

Of note, though, is this sentence: “A company spokesman said it would take a ‘small fee’ from pharmacies for every transaction.”

“Expired” EpiPens are still good (mostly)

A study finds that Epi-Pens are still good even four years after their “expiration” date.

They found that 29 months after expiration, the pens contained at least 90% of their stated amount of epinephrine. Pens 50 months — more than four years — past the printed expiration date had more than 84% of the medication.

The study’s authors say that it’s still best to use an un-expired pen in an emergency, but that this means it’s worth keeping older ones around in case of emergency.

Fun related fact: The “Use By” or “Best By” labels on food aren’t regulated. They’re just manufacturers’ suggestions for when the food will be at its best — not when it goes bad.

“Everything We Know About Salt May Be Wrong”

It doesn’t make you thirstier. In fact, you burn more calories when you eat more salt. This comes from a detailed study of Russian cosmonauts, where their salt intake, and urine output were monitored.

Turns out — in follow-up experiments with mice — that bodies burn more calories when they get more salt. Further…

Instead of drinking more, the crew were drinking less in the long run when getting more salt. So where was the excreted water coming from?

Answer: From fat and muscle tissue the body breaks down to produce water.

But everyone knows eating salty foods makes you thirsty. Yes… sort of. In fact, you get thirsty not because you need water, but because the salt stimulates an urge to drink. “This kind of ‘thirst’ may have nothing to do with the body’s actual need for water.”

High score for Georgia on OD prevention

Georgia scored five out of six for policies making it easy for someone overdosing on opioids to get access to naloxone. (What are we missing? “A law that considers calling for help a mitigating factor in prosecution for drug crimes.”)

Medicaid cuts and opioids

The people who treat opioid abuse and addiction are worried about the big Medicaid cuts in the ACA replacement passed by the House.

HUGE MAJOR BREAKING STOP-THE-PRESSES NEWS

Kleenex has announced breathtaking* new additions to its tissue line-up: Kleenex Ultra Soft Go-Anywhere and Kleenex Multicare, tissues “designed for today’s busy, multitasking consumers.”

* Maybe “breathtaking” is the wrong word to use for tissues

Speaking of breathtaking

If you sell neti pots, remember to tell buyers to purify the water they use. Pro tip: Toss in the phrase “brain-infecting amoeba.”

Elsewhere

Texas is gearing up for a vote on a medical-marijuana bill.

Seattle is considering a soda tax — something that’s worked in other places.

—Andrew Kantor • May. 09, 2017

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In Georgia, landmark law goes a long way to limit PBM practices

It’s a huge win for patients. It’s a huge win for pharmacists. It’s a smackdown on PBM abuses. And Governor Deal just signed it into law.

It’s the Pharmacy Patient Fair Practices Act, and we’re not exaggerating. This new Georgia law will protect patients and pharmacists from the worst of PBM abuses.

This is a huge victory for GPhA, and it’s a model other states are already looking to emulate.

What’s the big deal?

When the law takes effect, it will quash a number of PBM abuses that have been borne by patients and pharmacists for a long time.

Starting July 1…

  • You can tell your patients about less-costly alternatives. PBMs can no longer restrict pharmacies from providing patients with that information, nor can they prohibit you from selling them those less-costly drugs.
  • You can deliver medications. PBMs can no longer restrict pharmacies from offering direct-delivery services to their patients as an ancillary service.
  • Your patients’ co-pays can no longer be higher than the cost of the drug. PBMs can no longer “claw back” copays that are higher than the actual cost of the drug to the patient.
  • You will not have to pay certain transaction fees. PBMs can no longer charge pharmacies fees related to the adjudication of a claim.
  • If a PBM wants to recoup money, it needs to do an audit. PBMs can no longer recoup money from a pharmacy outside the audit process, unless otherwise authorized or required by law.
  • You have rights, and you can exercise them. PBMs can no longer penalize or retaliate against a pharmacy for seeking to enforce their rights under the law.
  • No more mandatory mail order under group, blanket, and individual accident and sickness policies. (There are several large swaths of the mail-order market that this bill will not directly impact due to federal law and other considerations.)

And the law comes with teeth: It gives the commissioner of insurance the authority to enforce these rules and regulations. Why is that important? The commish doesn’t have to submit to arbitration.

What do you have to do? Nothing. The PBMs are going to have to change their policies to comply with the law; you reap the benefits.

We owe some big thank-yous: to Senator Mullis and Representative Knight who introduced and championed the bills, to all the legislators who cosponsored or voted for this bill, and to Governor Deal for signing it.

Oh, and to all the GPhA members who have invested in PharmPAC. This is how that investment paid off.

PCOM students take drugs

Student pharmacists from PCOM helped Snellville police take back more than 300 pounds of unneeded prescription drugs on Saturday as part of National Drug Take-Back Day.

Lack-of-merger mania

Anthem asked the Supreme Court to allow it to merge with Cigna. An appeals court denied the merger on anti-trust grounds because it would be bad for consumers.

The $1 billion Aetna had to pay Humana because of that failed merger meant Aetna technically lost money in the first quarter of 2017.

New ALS treatment comes to the U.S.

The FDA has approved the first drug for ALS — aka Lou Gerhig’s Disease* — in more than 20 years. It has been used to treat the disease in Japan.

*Ironically, it turns out Gehrig didn’t have ALS.

You probably heard, but just in case

Trump has proposed cutting the office of the “drug czar” (the Office of National Drug Control Policy) by 95 percent. The office fights drug trafficking and helps communities reduce drug abuse, including battling the opioid epidemic.

Measles is hitting the Somali-American community in Minnesota hard, because anti-vaxxers convinced enough of them that vaccines are dangerous. Now they’re paying the price.

—Andrew Kantor • May. 08, 2017

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