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Deal with Pfizer renewed

For teaching Medicaid recipients how to stay healthy, the drugmaker gets its brands on a preferred list. Some doubt the benefit to the state.

By Associated Press
Published September 24, 2003

MIAMI - Pfizer Inc. will extend its program to teach Florida Medicaid recipients how to stay healthy in exchange for the state's continuing to buy the firm's drugs without getting large discounts, Gov. Jeb Bush said Tuesday.

Florida is a testing ground for so-called disease management programs sponsored by Pfizer and three other drugmakers, who say they slash Medicaid costs by showing patients with diabetes, heart disease and other ailments how to eat, exercise and take their medicine properly. That has reduced Medicaid recipients' doctor and hospital visits, they say.

The programs' two-year initial run expired June 30, with the companies guaranteeing savings to Florida of $64.7-million during that period or they would pay the difference. Bush said Pfizer's program, the first and largest, will now go until September 2005.

"Today, more than one out of every $5 in the state budget, a budget of $50-billion, goes to Medicaid. So this is a significant issue ... that we struggle with," Bush said at a news conference.

Florida's Medicaid budget is expected to increase 9 percent this year, but would rise more without these programs, he said.

Pharmaceutical companies offer the programs to get their medicines onto Florida's list of preferred drugs for Medicaid patients. Pfizer's first deal with the state let the company sell all its drugs at the full price for Medicaid patients, but now it will offer "modest" discounts, said John Sory, vice president of Pfizer Health Solutions.

Critics say the programs do help, but discount prices would do more to drive down health costs.

The Legislature's Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability said in an April report that the state could have saved $64-million this fiscal year by scrapping the programs and demanding bigger discounts.

[Last modified September 24, 2003, 01:34:33]

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