Finding new benefits to e-prescribing
Electronic prescribing has long been touted as a way to reduce medication errors and healthcare costs, but one retail pharmacy chain has found another use for it.
Walgreens announced in March that it would send immunization records directly from Walgreens and Duane Reade stores, as well as Take Care Clinics, to primary care providers over Surescripts’ electronic prescribing network using the network’s Clinical Interoperability services. In addition, later this year, it will start sharing immunization data with local and state public health agencies and Take Care Clinic patient summaries with primary care providers.
The announcement represents not just the potential offered by e-prescribing, but also the benefits of having retail pharmacies offer immunizations. Now patients can get their vaccinations at the pharmacy or retail clinic and ensure that their providers know about it. This will become especially important as the variety of vaccinations that pharmacists can administer increases.
Pet meds barking up retail’s tree
A typical retail pharmacy is equipped to handle most of the prescription needs of its customers, whether they have a skin rash, chronic illness or the need for a vaccination against the flu or shingles.
With the plethora of health needs facing humans these days, it’s easy to forget that Fluffy and Fido have a few health needs of their own — needs that are driving sales of prescription drugs for pets and opening opportunities for pharmacy retailers.
Among people, the aging of the population has led to a rise in such long-term, chronic health conditions as arthritis, metabolic disorders and kidney disease. And similar trends have been occurring among pets. “It’s all chronic disease, for the most part,” Debbie Wang, an analyst with investment firm Morningstar, told Drug Store News. “In general, if pets stay away from trauma, really what gets them is stuff like cancer, cardiovascular disease and, for cats especially, diabetes.” Wang said pet health care likely would grow faster than it had in the past, driven by younger people putting off having families and older people becoming empty nesters. “So you have a lot of solid drivers for continued growth in pet ownership, and as pets get older, that’s where you’re going to see a growth in pet medication,” Wang said.
According to Packaged Facts, a division of MarketResearch.com, retail sales of pet medications — including sales through retail stores, online retailers and veterinarians — reached $6.7 billion in 2011. Online retailers, including those operated by Target and Walmart, have expanded their product ranges and continue to control much of the pet drug business, Wang said.
One reason why brick-and-mortar retailers have been relatively slow to get into pet meds is because most pet owners continue buying medications through veterinarians, while manufacturers often refuse to sell directly to retailers, forcing the latter to go through distributors while vets can get the drugs for cheaper from manufacturers. This especially is true for certain drugs designed solely for pets; many other pet drugs are reformulations of drugs originally developed for humans, or even human drugs dispensed at lower doses.
“Now, retail pharmacies are starting to see prescriptions for those products come in the door, and a demand for those products exists at retail,” Costco SVP pharmacy Vic Curtis told DSN. Costco soft launched a pet meds business last year and rolled it out nationally this month. The new initiative includes a custom CE program for pharmacists dispensing pet meds, as well as a veterinary drug handbook shipped to stores and access to veterinarians who can answer pharmacists’ questions. “It’s a small segment currently, but we have expectations that it will grow to be more significant over time,” Curtis said.
Kinney Drugs, a regional chain based in northern New York state, also has a pet meds business advertised on its website, while signage at Walgreens’ Chicago flagship store touted the availability of pet meds.
Pharmacy retailers also could stand to benefit from proposed legislation moving through Congress. H.R. 1406, the Fairness to Pet Owners Act of 2011, introduced by Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, would require veterinarians to allow pet owners to have prescriptions filled anywhere instead of making them obtain drugs at the office.
Meanwhile, analysts see pet drugs as serving a function similar to vaccinations — a way to attract more customers, even if they don’t necessarily make retailers a lot of money. “I believe the whole goal is to get people in the store more often, and if having to fill a prescription for your pet means it’s going to bring you into the space an extra time that you wouldn’t before, it seems to me that it would be a benefit for [retailers],” Wang said.
NCPDP conference preview: D.0, PBMs and HIE, oh my!
The Emdeon team always looks forward to the NCPDP Annual Conference. The 2012 version is coming up in early May at the Arizona Biltmore. As expected, NCPDP has done an excellent job in scheduling a large number of important and interesting topics. Emdeon’s Lathe Bigler will be discussing the impact of health information exchanges (HIEs) and accountable care organizations (ACOs) on our industry, and I am scheduled to talk about the industry’s observations and lessons learned regarding the implementation of D.0.
Additionally there will be other great subjects covered:
- What is “ePrior Authorization” all about? How does this emerging standard affect the interaction between pharmacy, physicians and plans? This is a timely topic as several states have introduced legislation that specifies “point of care” prior authorization language.
- How will the new pricing benchmarks taking place in the pharmaceutical industry, such as AAC and NADAC, impact AMP and the pharmacy industry?
- How can the industry adapt to the changing landscape within the PBM marketplace? A legal viewpoint will be delivered helping us understand what laws were passed in 2011 and where we may be headed for 2012.
- How is the industry adapting to Electronic Prescribing of Controlled Substances (EPCS)? As we continue to implement these new protocols, a real world perspective will be given. How are we doing in moving to the DEA’s Interim Final Rule passed in 2010?
- What potential benefits exist for the pharmacy industry in the emerging state-HIE marketplace across the United States? As a whole, how will the pharmacy industry adapt as healthcare sectors across the marketplace continue to automate as a result of HITECH?
- How will meaningful use impact pharmacy? CMS has issued $3.8 billion in incentive payments to eligible prescribers and hospitals. But how does meaningful use relate to HIE? And what does HIE have to do with pharmacy? We know for instance that pharmacy is not eligible for meaningful use incentive payments. However, this doesn’t mean pharmacy has no role to play within HIE or meaningful use. There will be a webinar bringing all of this together and helping pharmacy better understand its important role in supporting interoperability and access to information across the healthcare system.
The above examples are only a sampling of the important topics being covered next month at the annual NCPDP conference. This is both an exciting and challenging time within our industry. Stay tuned as we look forward to the reviews and commentary from this event which takes place May 6 to 12. Better yet, I encourage you to attend this important industry event. It is an informational, fun and important conference attended by pharmacy leaders throughout the industry. Social events, such as receptions and especially the closing night theme party, are scattered throughout the schedule, giving you time to network and unwind all at the same time.
We continue to advocate for membership and active participation in NCPDP as it affects our business in so very many positive ways. We believe that through collaboration and commitment to a quality healthcare system, it has and will continue to live up to its mission, which in part states “provides a forum wherein our diverse membership can develop business solutions” that effect our industry. For more information on the conference, click here.
VP of pharmacy network services
Paul Hooper directs Emdeon's pharmacy network services initiatives with a focus on developing programs, standards and partnerships that increase pharmacy efficiency and reduce healthcare costs. Paul has spent more than 25 years in the healthcare industry with a predominant focus in pharmacy. During this time, he has held roles in product development, systems, finance and operations at various recognized industry leaders: BASF, Abbott Laboratories, Cardinal Health, ArcLight and Emdeon. He holds a master's degree in business administration from Ohio University and a bachelor of science in food science from Pennsylvania State University.