Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Grassley Statement at Express Scripts/Medco Merger Hearing PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 12 December 2011 16:08

Statement of Ranking Member Chuck Grassley of Iowa

Senate Committee on the Judiciary,

Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights

Hearing on “The Express Scripts/Medco Merger: Cost Savings for Consumers or More Profits for the Middlemen?”

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing.  Whether people know it or not, this proposed merger will affect them.  Prescription drugs are a daily part of many folk’s lives.  How those drugs are paid for and determining who gets paid what is a complex process.  At the heart of all of this are the Pharmacy Benefit Managers, or PBMs.

The combination of Express Scripts and Medco would create a company that processes almost one-third of all PBM-administered prescriptions.  Basically, one in four individuals who receive prescription drugs through a health plan will be impacted.  So, this is an important matter.  I expect the Federal Trade Commission will examine this merger rigorously, as they should.

Today this Committee has the opportunity to hear some practical concerns with the merger in a public forum.  I’m sure there will be much discussion on the legal issues that will be part of the Federal Trade Commission’s review.  However, we get the chance to listen to those who support and oppose the proposed merger. I expect the discussion will be fruitful and informative.

I’ve heard from a large number of Iowa pharmacists who raise concerns.  I’m interested to hear about the effect this merger will have on them and consumers.  There are also transparency and competition issues that deserve discussion and today’s a great opportunity to do so.

Again, thank you for holding this very important hearing, Mr. Chairman, and I look forward to hearing from the witnesses.

News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 12 December 2011 10:00

Senators Request Information on Agreements between Pfizer, Drug Benefit Companies, and Insurance Companies Pertaining to Promotion of Heart-Disease Drug Lipitor

Washington, DC – Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), senior Finance Committee member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Special Committee on Aging Chairman Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.) sent letters today to Pfizer, three companies that manage pharmaceutical benefits and two insurance companies asking for information about agreements aimed at limiting the sale of Atorvastatin, the generic equivalent of Pfizer’s drug Lipitor.  The letters were sent after a news report alleged Pfizer agreed to provide discounts to pharmaceutical benefit management companies (PBMs) and insurance companies if the PBMs and the insurers would block prescriptions for Lipitor’s generic equivalent.  In letters sent to Pfizer, PBMs Medco, Express Scripts, and Catalyst RX and insurance companies Coventry Health Care and UnitedHealth, the Senators expressed concern these arrangements will hinder access to generic drugs today and in the future.

“We need to do all we can to preserve access to the generic drugs that so are critical to seniors and millions of Americans across the country.  Patients and their families depend on generic drugs and they can’t afford to see these generics pushed out of the market,” Baucus said. “By working with manufacturers to push brand-name drugs, drug benefit companies may be abusing Medicare to boost their profits and denying generic alternatives to patients – a practice that needs to end immediately.  We need to take a close look to ensure we’re protecting both taxpayer dollars and access to the medicine patients need.”

“In what’s been reported, just about everyone wins except consumers and taxpayers.  That’s cause for scrutiny, and these letters reflect a commitment to looking at how to prevent the system from being manipulated so that access to generic drugs is restricted and taxpayers are forced to unnecessarily pay brand-name drug prices.” Grassley said.

“Consumers and taxpayers foot the bill when drug benefit companies and insurers manipulate the marketplace to prevent access to generic drugs for millions of Americans.  We hope that scrutiny into these business practices will restore fairness and open the gates to affordable prescription drug choices and tremendous cost savings,” Kohl said.

The news report indicated Pfizer and PBMs Medco Health Solutions and Catalyst RX have entered into agreements aimed at undercutting Atorvastatin sales.  Letters sent from the PBMs to pharmacies show the agreements will prevent customers enrolled in certain prescription drug plans from receiving the generic alternative to Lipitor.  While these letters indicate that a plan member’s co-pay for Lipitor would be discounted and equal to the cost of a less-expensive generic prescription, the Senators are concerned the PBMs and insurance companies may charge health plan sponsors, including employers and Medicare Part D, full price for brand-name Lipitor from December 1, 2011 through May 31, 2012, while pocketing the discount from Pfizer.  The senators asked for a detailed list of all of all agreements which block generics or favor brand-name drugs and for documents related to the Lipitor deal.

Spending on the Medicare Part D program providing drug coverage for seniors will total $65 billion in the current fiscal year.  In the next four years, brand-name drugs with approximately $100 billion in sales in the U.S. have patents that will expire.  Without the prospect of true competition, generic drug manufacturers will be hesitant to invest the time and resources required to bring low-cost generic drugs to the market.  This heightens the concern that these types of arrangements will become a trend, ultimately compromising access to generic drugs and increasing costs to Medicare.

The United States Senate Committee on Finance has jurisdiction over the Medicare and Medicaid programs.  More than 100 million Americans receive health care and have access to affordable prescription drugs under those programs.

GAO testimony on oversight of psychotropic prescriptions for children in foster care PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 12 December 2011 09:57
Thursday, December 1, 2011

Senator Chuck Grassley issued the comment below regarding new findings from the Government Accountability Office about dramatically higher rates of psychotropic prescription drugs being given to foster children over other children in Medicaid.  The GAO is finishing work on a report requested by Senator Tom Carper of Delaware.  Senators Grassley, Collins, McCain and Scott Brown joined in requesting the report.  The GAO today testified about its findings during a hearing of a subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.  A foster youth named Ke’onte Cook also testified about his personal experience in having to take several medications while moving from one foster home to another.

Senator Grassley’s comment:

“Children in the foster system are about as vulnerable as children can be, so more should be known about the degree to which foster children are given psychotropic drugs and the rationale for doing so, especially given the dramatic findings of this report.  The federal government should provide, without delay, the recommended guidance to states for monitoring what’s happening.  Prescribing patterns and adverse effects need to be tracked for the well-being and protection of these children.  An environment needs to be established where there’s accountability for the degree to which these drugs are used in order to make sure it’s not just for convenience and at the children’s expense.  There’s also a public interest in making certain Medicaid isn’t being abused through over prescribing.  My oversight, combined with investigative reporting, has exposed a few doctors in Florida who prescribed higher numbers of psychotropic drugs than seem humanly possible.  That’s the kind of pattern states and the federal government need to monitor and nip in the bud as problems develop.  Also, disclosure of drug company payments to doctors will help to identify doctors who might be inclined to prescribe certain drugs at high levels because of a strong relationship with the drug maker.”

Background information:

Senator Grassley has worked to make improvements to the foster care system and to make it easier for children in foster care to be adopted into permanent, loving homes, including the landmark 2008 law.  The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 requires states to strengthen oversight of medical treatment and ensure that foster children receive high-quality, coordinated services when their placements change.

In 2009, Senator Grassley and Senator Mary Landrieu founded a Foster Youth Caucus in the Senate to draw the attention of policy makers to the needs of older children in foster care and the importance of helping children in the foster care transition out of the system and to independence, without the support of family.

Separately, beginning in 2007, Senator Grassley made the case for requiring pharmaceutical and medical device makers to disclose payments they make to doctors.  The disparities he disclosed between payments that research doctors reported receiving and payments that were made by drug makers galvanized support for enactment last year of a reform legislation sponsored by Senator Grassley and Senator Herb Kohl which will require disclosure.  Under their Physician Payments Sunshine Act, drug, device and medical supply companies must file annual reports with Department of Health and Human Services delineating all payments over $10, and the information will be posted online in a searchable manner beginning on September 30, 2013, and then on March 31 each subsequent year.  Physician names, office addresses, and specialties will be posted along with the form and amount of payments.  Senator Grassley has said this reform will provide transparency and, in turn, greater accountability in medical research and practice.

Governor Quinn Commemorates World AIDS Day PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Nafia Khan   
Monday, 12 December 2011 09:55

Encourages Commitment to Prevention, Education, Access to Healthcare 


CHICAGO – December 1, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn commemorated World AIDS Day today by urging Illinois residents to support raising awareness, and providing access to education and quality healthcare in the global effort to stop the spread of HIV infection.


“There has been tremendous and groundbreaking work done worldwide to educate the public in the effort to prevent the further transmission of HIV,” Governor Quinn said. “But as we observe the 23rd World AIDS Day, and the 30th anniversary of the first reported cases of HIV/AIDS, we must continue working globally and locally to reach our goal of zero AIDS-related deaths.”


The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS estimates that 33 million adults and 2.5 million children are living with HIV worldwide. As a result, the theme for the 2011 World AIDS Day - observed every Dec. 1 since 1988 - is “Getting to Zero.”


Illinois has the 7th highest number of AIDS cases in the nation, with 38,265 cases reported since 1981, with half of those cases being African-American.  Of the Illinois residents diagnosed since 1981, 20,970 have died. The Illinois Department of Public Health sponsors several groundbreaking programs and funds many organizations statewide that aim to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. The department also provides access to healthcare services for those living with the disease, including an HIV/AIDS and STD hotline: 1-800-243-2437.


Other programs include:


  • Quality of Life Endowment Fund – Proceeds from the “Red Ribbon Cash” scratch off lottery game are used to fund organizations providing HIV/AIDS prevention and support services.
  • AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) – Serves 4,100 low-income persons diagnosed with HIV/AIDS per month access life-saving anti-retroviral drugs.
  • BASUAH – Brothers and Sisters United Against HIV/AIDS program promotes HIV/AIDS awareness among communities of color, which are disproportionately impacted by the disease, through education, collaboration and community engagement. Visit for more information.
  • Text 2 Survive – Allows public to find free testing sites and health events via mobile phone by texting “EVENT”, “IL” or “ALERT” plus 5-digit ZIP Code to 36363. Spanish speakers can text “CENTRO” plus 5-digit ZIP Code to 36363.


At today’s event, Governor Quinn was joined by Congressman Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.), State Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago), Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Bechara Choucair, and Kathi Braswell, executive director of the Ruth Rothstein CORE Center, one of the largest HIV/AIDS clinics in the United States.

Governor Quinn also declared today World AIDS Day, presenting the following proclamation:


WHEREAS, preventing the transmission of HIV infection and stopping the spread of AIDS requires a worldwide effort to increase communication, education and action; and

WHEREAS, estimates from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS on the global AIDS epidemic show that around 33 million adults and 2.5 million children were living with HIV at the end of 2009; and

WHEREAS, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health, Illinois has the seventh highest number of AIDS cases in the nation, with 38,265 reported cases of AIDS since 1981. Of those diagnosed with the disease, about 20,970 have died; and

WHEREAS, the World Health Organization has designated December 1 of each year as World AIDS Day, a day to expand and strengthen the worldwide effort to stop the spread of HIV and AIDS; and

WHEREAS, this year marks the 23rd anniversary of World AIDS Day and the 30th anniversary of the first reported cases of HIV/AIDS. While we have come a long way since then, there is still much more to be done; and

WHEREAS, the theme for World AIDS Day 2011 is “Getting to Zero” Global leaders have pledged to work towards universal access to HIV and AIDS treatment, prevention and care, recognizing these as fundamental human rights. Valuable progress has been made in increasing access to HIV and AIDS services, yet greater commitment is needed around the world if the goal of universal access is to be achieved; and

WHEREAS, the campaign calls on all sectors of society such as families, communities and civil society organizations, as well as governments, to take the initiative and provide leadership on AIDS; and

WHEREAS, this day in Illinois is commemorated by a number of events across the state, including the dimming of the lights atop the Illinois State Capitol dome and at the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago during the evening hours to coincide with the dimming of the lights at the White House in tribute to those infected with and affected by HIV and AIDS:

THEREFORE, I, Pat Quinn, Governor of the State of Illinois, do hereby proclaim December 1, 2011 as WORLD AIDS DAY in Illinois, and encourage all residents to take part in activities and observances designed to increase awareness and understanding of AIDS, to take part in AIDS prevention activities and programs, and to join in the efforts to prevent transmission of HIV and further spread of AIDS.



Medicare’s Announcement that it will Now Pay for Obesity Counseling Benefits Robard Corporation Customers, Dieters PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Larry Korte   
Monday, 12 December 2011 09:51

This week’s announcement that Medicare will pay for obesity screening and intensive behavioral counseling assists Robard’s weight loss partners in treating more dieters who otherwise could not afford counseling.

MOUNT LAUREL, NJ, December 1, 2011 — On Tuesday, November 29, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced Medicare will pay for screenings and preventive services to help recipients curb obesity and the medical ailments associated with it, primarily heart disease, strokes and diabetes.

Beneficiaries with body mass index values of 30 or more can receive weekly in-person intensive behavioral therapy visits for a period of one month, followed by visits every two weeks for an additional five months, paid in full by Medicare with no copayment. Additional monthly sessions will be covered for up to six months afterward if the beneficiary has lost at least 6.6 pounds (3 kg) during the first six months.

To assist customers with this emerging opportunity, Robard Corporation already facilitates the training of weight loss professionals on how to counsel dieters as part of the vast number of free services it offers to customers to help grow their business. In addition, the average dieter on a Robard plan looses 2-4 pounds per week, thus aiding them in Medicare eligibility.

“This CMS announcement is further affirmation that the worldwide obesity epidemic must be combated with a united front,” said Robard President Robert Schwartz. “We at Robard are proud to offer our partners the training, resources, and products required to help dieters improve the quality of their lives and decrease comorbidities just as we have for more than 35 years.”

Robard’s business development team works directly with their partners to grow their businesses, providing business planning, marketing solutions and operational support nationwide to corporations, hospital networks, physician practices, medical weight loss clinics, surgical facilities, and others.

For more information on Robard and its services, please visit



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