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 18, 2010

Is There A New Coumadin Alternative Better Than Pradaxa?

Posted in Heart Disease in the News, New Heart Studies tagged , , , , , , , , at 2:28 am by keepyourhearthealthy

image by Salvatore Vuono

Pradaxa‘s manufacturer, Boehringer Ingelheim, had hoped to keep the cardiology buzz about their drug in the headlines this week.  Much to their chagrin, Bayer/Johnson & Johnson stole the spotlight with their new Coumadin alternative.


Over the past several days, the American Heart Association has been holding it’s Scientific Sessions for American cardiologists in Chicago.  The spotlight of cardiology news over the past month has been a new drug called Pradaxa (dabigatran).  Pradaxa is an alternative to Coumadin that was just approved by the FDA in October and is already available for special order at pharmacies in most states.  Patients with atrial fibrillation have been waiting 50 years for an option other than Coumadin in terms of stroke prevention.

On the Boehringer Ingelheim website, an article about Pradaxa had mentioned they would be presenting their large trial about Pradaxa at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in Chicago.  The news spotlight however has been stolen by a new, upcoming Coumadin alternative called Xareltorivaroxaban) which is manufactured by Bayer/Johnson & Johnson.  Xarelto has not yet been approved by the FDA but the phase 3 trials were presented at the Scientific Sessions, giving this potential new drug much more publicity than Pradaxa.  The big trial for Xarelto showed that it works just as well as Coumadin at preventing strokes in people with atrial fibrillation.  However, it will likely take at least a year before it is available as a prescription to patients.

So what is the big deal about this new Coumadin alternative called Xarelto?

  1. Xarelto only needs to be taken once a day whereas Pradaxa is twice a day
  2. Xarelto does not require fingerstick monitoring or dose adjustments (same as Pradaxa)
  3. Xarelto was tested in moderate to high risk patients and resulted in less problems with severe bleeding than Coumadin

Even though Xarelto sounds like a great option for patients who do not want to take Coumadin, we still have to look at the facts.  Right now, Pradaxa is the ONLY alternative to Coumadin that is available and FDA-approved.  Other drugs may be coming in the next few years but a better drug than Coumadin has been needed for more than 50 years!  The biggest problem with Pradaxa now is cost.  Out of pocket it is more than $6 per day and Medicare Part D is not covering it at this point. There’s no way to know when or IF Xarelto will be FDA-approved and how much it will cost.  Let’s just pray that we can work out the barriers of price soon so that everyone with atrial fibrillation can enjoy the benefits of stroke prevention without all the hassle of Coumadin.

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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.

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