HEALTH

Pharmacogenomics in aisle 1?

BY 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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HEALTH

Agreement to drop public option pushes health bill ‘way down road’

BY Drug Store News Team

NEW YORK To paraphrase a quote often attributed — but probably incorrectly — to 19th century German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, if you like either laws or sausages, it’s best not to watch them being made.

That maxim could certainly apply to the seemingly endless bickering over the details of the health-reform debate in Congress. But in an era of constant Internet news feeds, blogging and instantaneous, on-the-spot reporting and analysis, it’s virtually impossible to avoid the spectacle.

Since the spring, the give-and-take over health reform and the public rancor it’s generated have dominated the airwaves and print media. And, given the almost unanimous opposition of House and Senate Republicans and the apprehension of some centrist Democrats regarding issues like the so-called public health-plan option and public funding for abortion, the odds against passage of any health reform legislation this year have seemed at times almost insurmountable.

 

But those odds went up dramatically on the evening of Dec. 8. A breakthrough on negotiations over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act came when Democratic leaders in the Senate indicated their willingness to compromise on the issue that posed perhaps the biggest single impediment to passage — the public option. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the tentative agreement to drop plans for a government-managed health plan pushed the bill’s chances “way down the road.”

 

 

The Democrats could still end up with half a loaf, since the agreement includes a plan to create a network of nonprofit health plans — administered by the Office of Personnel Management — for Americans who lose their employer-sponsored health plans and others who find it difficult to get insurance through other means. What’s more, the bill, if reconciled in its current form with health reform legislation already passed by the House and signed into law, could boost the rolls of the insured through another means besides those already laid out in previous health reform proposals. To wit: The agreement hammered out Tuesday night includes a proposal to lower the age for Medicare eligibility to 55.

 

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Flu incidence continues to drop, CDC says

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA Incidence of flu continued to drop for the week ended Dec. 5, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Friday. Now, only 14 states are reporting widespread influenza activity, down from more than 40 states just a few weeks ago.

Those states are located primarily in the Northeast and Southwest, along with Alabama and Florida.

Regional activity (where influenza-like illnesses are prominent in more than one but less than half of the regions within a state) is being reported in 25 states.

Nationwide, as many as 2.7% of all doctor visits were due to an influenza-like illness, which is still above the historical baseline of 2.3%, the CDC reported.

For the week, more than 98% of influenza viruses tested were categorized as the novel H1N1 influenza; approximately 1.5% consisted of a type-B influenza virus that belongs to the B/Victoria lineage, the CDC reported, a strain that is included in this year’s seasonal vaccine.

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