PHARMACY

Armada to launch new specialty pharmacy organization at annual summit

BY Alaric DeArment

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Armada Health Care will launch a new association of specialty pharmacy at its upcoming annual summit, the specialty pharmacy services company said Thursday.

Armada, a group purchasing and contracting organization, announced the formation of the Specialty Pharmacy Association of America, or SPAARx, which it will launch at the ninth annual Armada Specialty Pharmacy Summit in Las Vegas on May 6. Armada said it was forming the group in response to an "overwhelming volume of requests" from various stakeholders asking for the company to help fill what it called a void in the marketplace.

The group will be neutral to all industry vendors and governed by a board of directors comprising executives form a diverse group of specialty pharmacies and related organizations.

"Over the past several months, numerous industry stakeholders have encouraged Armada to take the lead and create a new, industry-aligned association for specialty pharmacy," Armada CEO Lawrence Irene said. "After much consideration, we responded with the plan to utilize our annual summit as the springboard to develop and grow the new association. We see this as a natural progression for the evolution of our annual conference as it continues to grow. The reputation, size and scope of our annual conference will give the new association instant credibility in the marketplace. It is the perfect venue as it provides a neutral and unified focal point for the rapidly expanding specialty pharmacy industry."

Armada said summit attendees would be invited to join the new association as charter members, and it will ultimately include thousands of individual members, specialty pharmacy corporations and other related industry organizations from all 50 states. The company said the group’s goal would be to promote the common business interests of the industry while fostering opportunities within it.


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PHARMACY

NCPA and three Oregon legislators push for greater oversight, transparency of PBMs

BY Michael Johnsen

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The National Community Pharmacists Association on Wednesday urged Oregon state lawmakers to pass a series of bills that would "collectively reduce red tape for pharmacists caring for patients, give consumers greater pharmacy choice at no extra cost, and keep more revenue within the state."

NCPA has identified four issues of import:

  • The first is setting reasonable standards for pharmacy audits to protect against fraud without abusing the system. According to NCPA, audits claim thousands of dollars from Oregon pharmacists and small business owners even when the correct medication is dispensed to the correct customer for the correct price. Recently, 22 different states have passed audit reform legislation, the association noted;
  • Second, legislation that would focus on freeing patients from requirements that use out-of-state mail order pharmacies by allowing them to transfer their prescription to a local pharmacy that agrees to accept the same terms and conditions, including reimbursement rates. This legislation is similar to that adopted in the last legislative sessions in both New York and Pennsylvania. National consumer surveys conducted by J.D. Power and Associates, Consumer Reports and others have documented patients’ preference and higher satisfaction rates with local pharmacies, NCPA noted;
  • Third, maximum allowable costs are the system PBMs use to determine how much they will reimburse pharmacies, mostly for generic prescription drugs that comprise 80% of what is dispensed to patients. Unfortunately, pharmacies are kept in the dark about the pricing changes for these products, NCPA stated. "Thus, these small business providers are ‘flying blind’ in terms of taking into account the operating costs of their prescription drug inventory. The legislative remedy would allow pharmacists simply to know how the MACs are determined and make sure that timely updates are made to reflect market prices."; and
  • Fourth, NCPA is addressing the lack of transparency in PBM contracting practices. "Health plan sponsors and patients are left in the dark about the validity and soundness of how their prescription drug benefits are being administered. Greater transparency into this often secretive and byzantine sector can facilitate better evaluation of PBM performance."

Spear-heading the effort is State Rep. Jules Bailey, D-Portland, who has organized a bipartisan working group with State Reps. Jim Thompson, R-Dallas, and Margaret Doherty, D-Tigard, to generate consensus solutions. 

“My interests in this legislation come from listening to my constituents,” Bailey stated. “Patients tell me about their maddening experiences navigating the PBM bureaucracy to get vital prescription drugs at a reasonable price and in a timely fashion. Pharmacists tell me about how PBMs squeeze them to the breaking point as a result of the onerous, take-it-or-leave-it contracts they must sign to have access to patients and about abusive PBM audit practices. The universal complaint is that the current system is broken," he said. "When people learn about all the questionable business tactics PBMs are allowed to employ on a daily basis without any accountability they are amazed. … While regulation for regulation’s sake is not a panacea, the utter lack of regulation when it comes to the PBM industry must end. I hope my fellow legislators, the governor and people of Oregon will join us in demanding reform. Without these proactive steps patients, health plan sponsors and pharmacies will continue to get the short end of the stick.”


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Hamacher, HDMA report analyzes front end as profit driver for independent pharmacy

BY Michael Johnsen

WAUKESHA, Wis. — Over-the-counter products across the front-end are becoming a more and more important profit driver for independent pharmacy operators, Hamacher Resource Group and the Healthcare Distribution Management Association revealed Wednesday as part of new research titled "Independent Pharmacy Shoppers: Who, What, and Why?" The report places a spotlight on the independent pharmacy front-end customer and helps identify shopper behaviors, purchase preferences and potential barriers that stand in the way of further engagement with independents.

According to the 48-page report, as many as 73% of pharmacists surveyed reported their front-end businesses were either growing or holding steady. And according to the research, as the frequency of shopping trips increased, so did the corresponding percentages of OTC and personal care purchases. In other words, the more often an independent pharmacy patient visited the store, the more likely they were to walk out with an OTC or beauty-care item in their shopping bag each trip. "The average independent [made] 10 recommendations per day for OTCs," Dave Wendland, VP, told attendants to a webinar hosted by Hamacher and HDMA Wednesday afternoon.

To help maximize productivity of an OTC set within the independent setting, set planograms and point-of-purchase materials are a good starting point, Wendland suggested.

"Among all shoppers interviewed, those who spent approximately 15 minutes in the store made the most OTC purchases," the report noted. "Those who spent less than 15 minutes in the store made the most purchases of personal care products. The lesson to independent pharmacies is to ensure those 15 minutes are ‘productive’ time. For example, they could train staff to interact with customers by recommending companion purchases. The goal is to match the speed of front-end service with the speed of prescription transactions."

Even as OTC grows in importance for independent operators, the greater incursion of the dollar channel into health and beauty items has emerged as a direct competitive threat to independent pharmacies.

In addition to HDMA, "Independent Pharmacy Shoppers: Who, What, and Why?" was made possible through the sponsorships of AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, H. D. Smith, Johnson & Johnson Sales and Logistics Company, McKesson, Mutual Wholesale Drug Company, Novartis Consumer Health, Smith Drug Company and Value Drug Company.


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