Pharmacogenomics in aisle 1?

Rob Eder

Not quite, but the continued evolution of Kerr Drug’s Community Healthcare Center store concept certainly offers a glimpse into what role community pharmacy could play in the American healthcare system of the future—and it goes far beyond just medication therapy management. Like the deal CVS Caremark announced in November with Generation Health, pharmacogenomics, the study of how genetics influence drug response, represents the new frontier of community pharmacy. And it’s a brave new world out there, to be sure.

In fairness, pharmacogenomics has been a part of the specialty pharmacy business for some time. But projects like Kerr’s pilot with the University of North Carolina’s Eshelman School of Pharmacy, which will focus on patients taking Plavix, target the long-term savings generated by patients on traditional drug therapies (see related story). These types of programs will be instrumental in demonstrating community pharmacy’s value beyond simply dispensing; the idea that a $250 test performed at the local drug store potentially could save $50,000 or more in upstream costs.

“We are at the doorstep not only of a new store, but also the future of community pharmacy,” Kerr Drug president and CEO Tony Civello told guests at the grand opening.

At the same time, on a much larger scale, the CVS Caremark-Generation Health deal will give big healthcare payers a front-row seat as it demonstrates the value of pharmacogenomics, offering PBM customers a chance to offer testing programs around drugs used to treat cancer, HIV and heart disease (see related story). CVS actually took a minority position in the privately held company, and chief medical officer Troyen Brennan will serve on Generation’s board of directors. So you can say the folks in Woonsocket hold quite a bit of stock in this whole area of personalized medicine.

That CVS is showing its leadership in an area like pharmacogenomics is not surprising. It is a company that has invested considerably in recent years to build a future beyond simply dispensing pharmaceuticals. But stories like what Kerr is doing in examination room No. 5 in its new Community Healthcare Center are an important reminder of the innovation and leadership that continues to come out of Chapel Hill, N.C.

They also are a sign that maybe the future of pharmacy doesn’t have one of those “you must be this size to ride this ride” signs. It’s not that size isn’t important, so much as maybe there is more than one way to measure it. Maybe, big ideas count, too.

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