DUBLIN, Ohio —For nearly three decades, Leader Pharmacies has beckoned independent drug store owners with the promise of safe harbor in stormy economic times. Over the past 18 months, as the economy staggered and consumer spending plummeted, that safe harbor may have kept some independents afloat.
Cardinal Health acquired Leader, a buying and marketing cooperative, shortly after its incorporation in 1987. Bolstered by the steady infusion of technology and marketing support from its corporate parent, Leader has become a widely recognized pharmacy brand. Some 3,500 Leader drug stores now operate in urban, smalltown and rural markets, averaging upward of $3 million a year, according to one Cardinal executive. Those stores “can take advantage of a vast array of marketing and support services,” the company reported.
Cardinal’s toolkit for Leader includes automated replenishment and pricing systems, exclusive branding programs and product lines, support for immunization programs and other clinical services, and LeaderNET, a service aimed at putting Leader store owners on a more equal footing with pharmacy benefit managers. The program provides negotiating prowess and expertise, access to new niche markets, membership in a provider network and other services, according to Steve Lawrence, Cardinal’s SVP independent sales.
In February, Cardinal unveiled new enhancements to LeaderNET to boost third-party prescription payments and strengthen independents’ position visà-vis managed care contractors. “In the past year alone, Cardinal Health has more than doubled the number of long-term care contracts it offers LeaderNET members,” said spokeswoman Tara Schumacher. “The company has recently added contracts for niche markets, including immunizations and 90-day medication supply programs.”
Added Lawrence, “Customers who use all of our managed care services experience an average annual savings of $42,000 to $70,000 per year.”