CARE Pharmacies expands reach beyond its legislative backyard

CARE Pharmacies
CEO: Gerry Crocker
Corp. Offices: Alexandria, Va.
Number of Members/Stores: 55
Web page: www.carepharmacies.com

Dispensing prescriptions for more than 40 Congressional leaders in just one of its Washington, D.C.-area stores, CARE Pharmacies serves as an ideal touchstone on the real benefits delivered by community pharmacy. “Because of the proximity of our stores to Capitol Hill, there’s been opportunities for our stores to be sites for press conferences,” Gerry Crocker, CARE CEO, told Drug Store News. That’s a core competency for CARE Pharmacies, Crocker said, to work with either the National Community Pharmacy Association — with which CARE Pharmacies shares a building — or the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. “There’s nothing better than a pharmacist sitting down in front of a legislator … and have their voice heard.”

Collectively, the 55 CARE Pharmacies generated some $215 million in revenue last year and represent buying power of some $145 million. And while the group is currently looking to expand its store base, the targeted expansion is not necessarily measured by store counts, but rather purchasing power. “We’re targeting much larger entities,” Crocker said. “We’ve actually designed a new agreement for large independent operators who may want to join CARE, but not become a franchisee [as part of] an affiliate program,” he said. “That allows us to combine our purchasing volumes with theirs and enhance our [collective] ability to get deeper discounts from wholesalers.”

CARE Pharmacies is unique in that it represents more than just a buying group or pharmacy programs clearing house for its members. Each of CARE’s member pharmacies actually own a piece of the corporate entity. “While [CARE members] are building equity in their own enterprise, they’re also building equity in CARE,” Crocker noted.

CARE Pharmacies recently renegotiated its wholesaler agreement after completing a request-for-proposal process and decided to re-sign with Cardinal Health. “We took a really good look as we were doing our prospecting [for new members] at our existing agreement with our prime vendor/wholesaler to make sure we were competitive in all areas in markets we are interested in expanding into,” Crocker explained. “That [new wholesaler agreement] is really going to allow us to increase strides in the growth initiative; our target is 30% [growth in purchasing volume],” he said.

Already CARE Pharmacies extends beyond the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area with three pharmacies located in Vermont and a new affiliate just outside of Philadelphia. “This entity does $15 million per year in purchasing,” Crocker said, and represents the first CARE affiliate pharmacy.

Like many independents, CARE Pharmacies’ offerings are rooted in many “niche” pharmacy services not readily provided by larger chains. “I call it multidiscipline stores,” Crocker said. “They have traditional pharmacy, but they also have other models — a long-term care module, compounding, specialty,” he said. “We are heavily into specialty in our group. Of the $145 million in purchasing, $31 million is in specialty drugs. We are very unique in that regard.”

As a result, the group has held the Washington, D.C., AIDS Drug Assistance Program contract exclusively for the past seven years running, a program that was re-upped this past August. Like many specialty offerings, success is measured in improved outcomes. “HIV is really an ideal disease-state to track outcomes,” Crocker said. “The viral loads are readily available because these patients are constantly being monitored.” With that focus on improved outcomes, and the fact that CARE Pharmacies services the program in the nation’s capital, there is an opportunity not only to showcase the benefits of community pharmacy in housing specialty pharmaceutical programs, but also to potentially serve as a model for ADAP programs around the country, Crocker said.

Other specialty offerings in which CARE has gained a critical mass include the fertility market. “Some of the largest fertility pharmacies in the country … are in our group,” Crocker noted.

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