January 24, 2011

The Latest on Medicare Part D and Pradaxa

Posted in Heart Disease in the News, Helpful Heart Links tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 4:01 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

image by renjith krishnan

Medicare Part D is still not paying for the new Coumadin alternative, Pradaxa, but there is hope for Medicare patients looking to make the switch.

Ever since Pradaxa became the first alternative to Coumadin approved for atrial fibrillation, Medicare patients have been eagerly awaiting the announcement of prescription coverage with Medicare Part D.  Three months have gone by and some Medicare patients have already switched despite the high out-of-pocket expense.  Since Medicare does not pay for Pradaxa, patients are spending as much as $250 per month.

According to a Pradaxa representative, only the Military and Medco are currently covering Pradaxa.  The manufacturer has recommended several options though for patients on Medicare who need financial assistance.  A Savings Card is available by signing up for the Pradaxa Support Program.  The Savings Card gives Medicare and Medicaid patients one free month of Pradaxa and continued savings throughout the year. Even patients who already have coverage under companies like Blue Cross and Blue Shield can use the Savings Card to offset a high copay.  These patients will often pay only $30 a month when using their insurance and the card.

If the Savings Card is not a good option for you because you still cannot afford the cost, the Pradaxa representative suggested applying to a third-party assistance program such as Rxhope.com.  Rxhope.com can guide you through the process of receiving Pradaxa for free.  They even have an application specifically for Medicare patients who need Pradaxa.  You can also begin a financial assistance application by calling the manufacturer Boehringer Ingelheim directly at 800-556-8317.

Rest assured, Pradaxa will eventually become approved for coverage by Medicare Part D.  The manufacturer is working diligently on the application process.  Until then, they are hoping patients will benefit greatly by using the Savings Card or signing up for financial assistance.  Check here for updates in the future!

November 8, 2010

Will Medicare Part D Pay for Pradaxa, the New Coumadin Alternative?

Posted in Heart Disease in the News, Heart disease tips, Helpful Heart Links, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 7:09 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

Product photo from Boehringer Ingelheim website press release

In it’s short life-span, Pradaxa has already turned the world of cardiology news upside down.  Boehringer Ingelheim has brought us the first good Coumadin alternative in 50 years, but they have yet to get it officially on the Medicare Part D list.

What To Do When You Have Heart Disease Blog has covered the topic of Pradaxa (dabigatran) extensively over the past month since the FDA voted to approve this history-changing alternative to Coumadin.  Patients with atrial fibrillation can now take Pradaxa 150mg twice a day to significantly reduce their risk of stroke.  According to the Pradaxa website, over 2.3 million Americans have atrial fibrillation and having this rhythm disturbance makes a person five times more likely to have a stroke.

Ever since the 1950’s Coumadin has been given to patients with atrial fibrillation because it significantly reduces clotting events such as stroke.  One trial (AFFIRM) even reported that patients taking Coumadin had a 69% lower risk of stroke.  Now the new drug Pradaxa has a large trial (RE-LY) showing that Pradaxa prevents 35% more strokes than Coumadin!

So far, the choice between Pradaxa and Coumadin is a no-brainer.  Pradaxa prevents more strokes and is way less hassle.  Unlike Coumadin, Pradaxa does not require monitoring or dose-changes.  Pradaxa is not affected by foods or other drugs. Quite frankly, the Coumadin regimen was just too complex for some patients to handle…and it carried some very significant risks of bleeding and hemorrhage!

When Will Medicare Pay For Pradaxa?

Now that Pradaxa is finally here to rescue heart patients from the clutches of Coumadin, will they be able to afford it?  Out of pocket costs can be about $250 per month. With prescription coverage (most companies will consider it a “non-preferred drug” right now) the cost can go down to $40 per month.  As of January, 2011, Pradaxa is NOT listed as a covered drug under Medicare Part D. That means that patients who use Medicare Part D will have to pay out-of-pocket if they switch from Coumadin to Pradaxa.  For the retired community relying on Medicare, $250 per month could mean missing a few meals!

There have been some reports of Boehringer Ingelheim working on getting Medicare Part D approval for Pradaxa.  Pradaxa is still not listed in the Medicare database (Medicare Drug Database) today but it may be too soon after it’s FDA approval for the Medicare website to be updated.  Even after calling the main Medicare number though, they confirmed that Pradaxa is not being covered.  I am certain that many Medicare patients will be basing their decision to switch to Pradaxa on cost so hopefully Part D adds it soon!  Check here for updates posted in the future.

Updated Articles

November 7, 2010

Tired of Coumadin? Ask Your Doctor About Pradaxa

Posted in Heart Disease in the News tagged , , , , , , at 2:15 am by keepyourhearthealthy

Atrial fibrillation

Image via Wikipedia

Between the fingertsicks, frequent dose changes and interactions with food and drugs, its no wonder people want to throw Coumadin out with the garbage!  Unfortunately, Coumadin has been the best option for preventing stroke in atrial fibrillation for 50 years now.

A new drug called Pradaxa (dabigatran) is now leading the way to ridding the world of Coumadin.  Pradaxa works just as well as Coumadin but does not require frequent bloodwork or changes to doseages.  As of last week, patients all over the US could start taking Pradaxa 150mg twice daily instead of Coumadin.  If you obtain a 90-day supply, the cost is about $250 per month out of pocket or $40 per month with prescription coverage.

Pradaxa has merely opened the gates for a whole new group of anticoagulant drugs.  Other options are on the way, which means more competition and cheaper prices.  For now, Pradaxa has taken the spotlight in this history-changing point of heart care.

Related Posts

November 5, 2010

Yes, Your Pharmacy Can Now Give You An Alternative To Coumadin! Pradaxa is HERE!

Posted in Heart Disease in the News, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , at 12:16 am by keepyourhearthealthy

photo by Andy Newson

It seems like just yesterday that Pradaxa (dabigatran) became officially approved by the FDA for sales in the US.

Normally it takes quite awhile for a prescription drug to actually appear on the shelves after approval.  But this new drug is not your average prescription.  The manufacturer, Boehringer Ingelheim, has brought Pradaxa to the pharmacy shelves in record time.

Pradaxa was just approved by the FDA on October 19th for preventing strokes in patients with atrial fibrillation.  Yesterday, the pills were available for shipping to pharmacies throughout the US.  Why the lightning fast availability?  Because heart patients in the US have been waiting decades for a good alternative to Coumadin or warfarin in atrial fibrillation.  Patients are tired of the frequent bloodwork to monitor the effectiveness of Coumadin.  Plus, the side effects and drug interactions are staggering to say the least.  Pradaxa protects against stroke better than Coumadin without all the fingerstick checks, drug interactions and side effects.

I called my local Kroger pharmacy and they could have the pills within 2 days.  Out of pocket, I was given a quote of $760 for a 3 month supply.  Using my prescription insurance and Medco, a second quote came down to $120 for 90 days. Not too bad…  I was expecting worse for a “non-preferred” medicine!

Here are some other new details to know if you intend to switch from Coumadin to Pradaxa:

  • Your INR needs to be 2 or less before you can start Pradaxa
  • You must take Pradaxa twice a day!
  • You CAN take Pradaxa while also taking Plavix but only if your cardiologist feels it is safe in your situation
  • Pradaxa starts working within 30 minutes to 2 hours
  • Pradaxa is generally no longer effective if you miss 2 doses
  • You cannot take Pradaxa if you are also taking Rifampin
  • Pradaxa is not currently indicated for people with mechanical heart valves (although this may be coming within the next few years)
Related Posts

November 3, 2010

How Much Will The New Coumadin Alternative Cost?

Posted in Heart Disease in the News tagged , , , , , , , , at 1:43 am by keepyourhearthealthy

photo by graur codrin

Lately it seems we can hardly get away from the slightest bit of news about the new Coumadin alternative, Pradaxa (dabigatran).

Ever since the FDA approved Pradaxa, news reports have been buzzing about this drug which may replace Coumadin in the future.  Many patients will be happy to dispose of their Coumadin or warfarin tablets in favor of a better drug.  But at what cost?

Pradaxa’s manufacturer Boehringer Ingelheim has released their pricing for the pills at nearly $3.40 per dose.  Patients will be expected to take 150mg twice a day so that means it will actually cost $6.75 per day or more than $200 per month.  And this is just the wholesale cost…who knows what the retailers will charge?

So, is Pradaxa going to be worth the price? Some physicians have already calculated the cost of Pradaxa pills versus the total expense of Coumadin and it appears to be cost-effective.  When you consider the expense of INR checks at least monthly while taking Coumadin, the price of monitoring an anticoagulant like Coumadin really adds up over the years.

Needless to say, cardiologists and patients alike are eager to get rid of Coumadin which Robert Baeten, PA-C, calls   “The most-commonly prescribed, dangerous drug.”  If you hope to switch to Pradaxa in the near future, here are a few things to consider:

  1. If you have no prescription coverage, Pradaxa may cost up to 6 times more than brand name Coumadin
  2. If you have prescription coverage,  Pradaxa copays may be somewhat comparable to Plavix
  3. Pradaxa has been shown in studies to be safer than Coumadin as far as bleeding risk (so less worries about bleeding in your brain if you bump your head while taking Pradaxa)
  4. Pradaxa does not require frequent fingerstick monitoring like Coumadin

Just like everything else in this economy, the bottom line will likely come down to price.  Pradaxa will initially be too expensive for people who do not have prescription drug coverage.  For those who have insurance, it will still likely be a hefty copay but hopefully the prices should improve over time.  I have personally called for pricing of the drug and will post the quotes in the next article:

Yes, Your Pharmacy Can Now Give You An Alternative To Coumadin! Pradaxa is HERE!

October 28, 2010

Canada Adds New Coumadin Alternative To Their Atrial Fibrillation Guidelines

Posted in Heart Disease in the News tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , at 1:47 am by keepyourhearthealthy


photo by Bill Longshaw


The newest anticoagulant drug Pradaxa (dabigatran) is already in Canada’s atrial fibrillation guidelines…even though it is still not approved to be sold in Canada!

Pradaxa (dabigatran) has made some huge headlines lately in the medical news ever since the FDA voted to approve it in September of this year.  Pradaxa is expected to be the first and only alternative to the super blood thinner Coumadin (warfarin).  For over 50 years people with atrial fibrillation have been forced to take Coumadin as a means of reducing their chances of stroke.  Coumadin requires frequent dose changes and blood checks to monitor the levels whereas Pradaxa does not.  (See previous article Coumadin and Warfarin Alternative Almost Here!)

In Canada, an update to their atrial fibrillation guidelines this week already includes recommendations for Pradaxa.  Surprisingly, Pradaxa is not even approved for market there yet!  It seems as though they have jumped the gun a bit but the authors are defending the update by saying it is “cutting edge.”  They apparently want to be prepared for the release of this promising new alternative drug.  Specifically, they recommend 150mg of Pradaxa to most patients in the future given that Pradaxa’s study showed this dose is more effective at preventing stroke than Coumadin.

The hype surrounding Pradaxa is certainly growing every day.  The manufacturer Boehringer Ingelheim has even started playing commercials here in the US.  Given that Pradaxa is not yet on pharmacy shelves, these commercials do not actually mention the drug name.  They simply offer to give more information about atrial fibrillation in general.  Since Boehringer Ingelheim is most well-known for its prostate drug Flomax, you can be certain the commercials are NOT a way to promote that medicine.  They are clearly gearing up their marketing for the highly anticipated Pradaxa.  And Canada is certainly rolling out the welcome mat!

October 20, 2010

Coumadin and Warfarin Alternative Almost Here!!

Posted in Heart Disease in the News, Helpful Heart Links, New Heart Studies tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , at 1:14 am by keepyourhearthealthy



photo from Boehringer Ingelheim website


In September, the FDA voted to approve a new drug called Pradaxa (dabigatran).  Today the FDA has announced Pradaxa is officially cleared for market.

The reason why so many people are buzzing about today’s FDA news is because we are now one step closer to getting rid of Coumadin and warfarin.  Pradaxa helps to prevent stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation similar to Coumadin.  However, Pradaxa does not require frequent blood tests to see if it is working.  Currently, people taking Coumadin or warfarin need a blood test at least every month.  See my previous post about this called Goodbye Coumadin!! Hopefully Soon…

According to the FDA website, Pradaxa will be sold in 2 different dosages, 75mg and 150mg.  Using dosages from previous studies, it appears that most people will be required to take 150mg twice a day.  For some patients with kidney problems, there is also the option of 75mg twice a day.

There is already a website for Pradaxa which has been started by the manufacturer (www.pradaxa.com).  The website includes a patient guide so that everyone can learn more about this new alternative to Coumadin.

See the manufacturers press release for more details:  http://us.boehringer-ingelheim.com/news_events/press_releases/press_release_archive/2010/october_20_2010.html