Company news: NIH, CVS

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley has put the National Institutes of Health on notice  -- he told the Director Francis Collins in a May 29 letter that he wants to know why it gave a $40,000 grant to a doctor that is currently being investigated by the Department of Justice over possible violation of NIH conflict of interest rules and Federal contracting rules as well as failure to report protocol violations. The Office of the Inspector General has also investigated the issue, but is waiting for the DOJ to end its inquiry before releasing its results. At issue is a 2008 finding that Dr. Charles Nemeroff failed to disclose financial ties to GlaxoSmithKline while he was studying depression with a $9 million NIH grant. GSK makes the antidepressant Paxil and paid Nemeroff almost $1.2 million. The NIH suspended the grant that August. “It's troubling that the NIH continues to provide limited federal dollars to individuals who have previously had grant funding suspended for failure to disclose conflicts of interest,” Grassley wrote in his letter to the NIH director. Grassley has several questions for the NIH, including if wants to know if the institutes were aware Nemeroff was being investigated by the DOJ and if it did, why he was given money. Grassley wants a response by June 12. The NIH did not respond to a request for comment by press time. [UPDATE: The NIH emailed MM&M that "Dr. Collins will be responding to the letter."]

Even if co-pay cards manage to break into Massachusetts, the war is far from over – CVS is taking an increasingly hard line against the discount cards, reported the Wall Street Journal. The cards, which lower a patient's point-of-purchase cost are a disputed promotional tactic among critics who say the cards drive up the cost of care by keeping patients wedded to higher-priced medications. A spate of lawsuits allege that these cards are a form of fraud, because payers aren't aware a card was used when a patient went to purchase the medication, and the full brunt of the cost only surfaces at a later cost. Critics say this undermines the very incentives for lower prescription costs that employers buy into when they choose prescription plans. CVS told the Journal its ban on co-pay cards is just part of an overall strategy to contain costs for its pharmacy benefits management business – the company began blocking drugs in January, with the guideline being drugs with modest sales. The WSJ said half of those banned treatments had co-pay cards attached to them and the others were drugs for which manufacturers didn't want to pay rebates.CVS is issuing its latest line of blocked medications July 1 and the ban will go into effect next year, reported the Journal. CVS said in its 2012 Insights report that it also plans to clamp down on costs with narrower formularies and penalizing “dispense as written” directives.