Sen. Grassley questions neb-med substitutions

Sunday, July 16, 2006

WASHINGTON - Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, expressed concern Thursday that some homecare companies and pharmacies are swapping prescribed respiratory medications with drugs they've compounded themselves--without telling patients or physicians.

In a letter to top officials at CMS and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Grassley said Medicare patients are targeted for switching because suppliers can make money by billing Medicare for brand-name drugs and providing patients less expensive, pharmacy-made drugs.

Grassley, who is chairman of the powerful Finance Committee, said he does not want to shut down legitimate pharmacy compounding but suggested that more oversight--including tracking how much Medicare spends for compounded drugs--is in order.

Committee investigators found:

* Former employees of a homecare company said the company sent preprinted order forms to doctors substituting pharmacy-made drugs for doctors' original orders.

* Tests run by pharmaceutical companies on samples of pharmacy-made medications found bacteria and that products did not contain the required dosage.

* Neither the FDA nor CMS know how many pharmacies and homecare companies practice compounding.