NACDS speakers look to the future

BOSTON The NACDS Pharmacy and Technology Conference kicked off Sunday morning with heavy hitters from the retail sector. A recurring theme amongst all the speakers was the huge prospects ahead for pharmacy—providing the all the segments of the industry work together and devise a game plan that looks beyond the now and creates a strategic framework for doing business 10 years down the road.

Bob Dufour, director of pharmacy, professional services and government affairs for Wal-Mart Stores, set the tone for the program with his opening statements. "We have to recognize the tremendous opportunity we have as American business and government to improve the quality of the lives of the people in the country." Dufour noted that it would be here in Boston over the next three days where conference attendees—numbering 2,700 representatives from 360 supplier companies and 150 retail chain pharmacies—would have the conversations that will lay the groundwork for that future plan.

Dufour was followed by Dave Bernauer, former head of Walgreens and current chairman of the board for NACDS. He started by thanking past NACDS chairmen Tony Civello and Bob Hannan for their efforts in making policymakers aware of the critical role pharmacists play in the healthcare equation. "Tony, Bob and the NACDS staff set the stage for the impact we are having on the Hill."

The industry veteran cited a recent victory in the form of legislation introduced on Aug. 2 by Sen. Max Baucus, chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, that looks to reverse some of the most damaging policies imposed under government cost-cutting efforts aimed at prescriptions dispensed under Medicaid.

Bernauer, however, cautioned that getting proposed legislation into law requires a tremendous amount of work and that the industry must prepare for "the greatest grassroots effort in the history of NACDS."

The next topic the NACDS chairman touched on was the tremendous change taking place in the industry. He noted that within just a year’s time CVS Caremark was created to bring better results and efficiencies to the market, Wal-Mart launched its $4 generics plan and that retail clinics have grown from 150 sites to over 500 in 15 community pharmacy companies. Last year pharma invested $55 billion on R&D and the industry is, now more than ever, building momentum toward e-prescribing.

There is a tendency for everyone to "let the urgent push aside the important," noted Bernauer, but it’s time to think about 2012 because the next five years will go by fast. And most of that change will be driven by technology. "The adoption of technology takes a long time and we need to get it right the first time," he added.

Bernauer then outlined three areas where the industry should focus its efforts:

  • The growing concern of counterfeit drugs. It is necessary to ensure the safety of the drug supply but not through systems that add expense without generating real benefits. "We need to take the lead in getting this right and set the standard today using technology like RFID that can take hundreds of millions of dollars [of costs] out of the pipeline."

  • E-prescribing. "This month 3 million scripts will be sent to stores … e-prescribing is on the verge of exploding," said Bernauer. Statistics surrounding e-prescribing are compelling. Eleven percent more scripts make it from the doctor’s office to the pharmacy through e-prescribing. Adoption is only part of the plan. Promotion is important as is training personnel behind the counter.

  • Patient adherence to drug therapy. As an example of the lack of drug compliance by patients Bernauer used a study of heart attack suffers who were prescribed beta blockers. Taking beta blockers would reduce the risk of a second attack by 30 percent but after a year only 46 percent were still taking beta blockers appropriately. The time saved by adopting technology could be re-invested in intervention and drug therapy management, Bernauer noted.

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