PHARMACY

Pharmacy’s challenge: Vision and reality

BY Jim Frederick

Innovate or stagnate into irrelevance. That’s the message chain pharmacy leaders had for their colleagues at last week’s National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ 2012 Annual Meeting in Palm Beach, Fla.

It’s not a new message. If you’re a community pharmacy professional, you’ve been hearing for years the steadily louder drumbeat for change as the profession and the industry it drives push for a truly central role in a rapidly evolving health system. What’s new is the urgency driving the call for change in 2012, as pharmacy scrambles to define a clear, well-defined role for itself as “the face of neighborhood health care” and the natural ally of the nation’s overburdened primary care physicians.

New NACDS chairman, and Walgreens president and CEO, Greg Wasson and NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson both issued that call for change at the annual powwow, and never was the vision for pharmacy’s transformation more clearly defined. Anderson urged pharmacy leaders to be “disruptive innovators” by bringing “medication counseling, health education, screenings, vaccinations and disease state management” to U.S. communities. Those services, he added, bring “tremendous value to a healthcare system that needs solutions that are cost-effective, high quality and patient-centric.” (Click here for more.)

Wasson wants the industry to scrap outdated concepts like “front end and back end,” and replace them with a holistic view of “the total store in meeting the wellness needs of our nation.” To succeed, that vision also will mean enlisting suppliers in nothing less than a retail pharmacy paradigm shift, where even traditional front-end categories, such as beauty, photo and greeting cards, are positioned as contributing to some aspect of consumers’ health and wellness — including their emotional wellbeing.

“Today, our product is an outcome — an improved health outcome — that only a face-to-face encounter with a community pharmacist can accomplish,” Walgreens’ CEO said.

(For more coverage, click here.)

All well and good, and absolutely critical to pharmacy’s long-term viability. As Wasson told NACDS attendees, the forces working to marginalize pharmacy and limit or deemphasize its contributions to a severely stressed U.S. health care system are “pushing us to leverage the true value of community pharmacy and to not allow ourselves to become commoditized.”

The question remains, however, if pharmacists can successfully deliver on this grand vision for pharmacy as the accessible, cost-efficient face of neighborhood health care while they’re coping with an ever-rising tide of prescriptions. Will pharmacy technology and new innovations in workflow, centralized dispensing and workload shifting be enough to offset the growth in script counts and give pharmacists the time to perform advanced medication therapy management, health screenings, a full schedule of immunizations and other clinical and preventive care services? And, equally important, will health plan payers adapt their reimbursement models fast enough to support this growing menu of clinical services as the health system lurches into the new era of accountable care?

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PHARMACY

Reports: Dying woman’s plea prompts early release of cancer drug

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK — An online plea for help from a mother dying of breast cancer prompted the manufacturer of an experimental drug to release it early, according to published reports.

In an article posted on its website, CNN told the story of 46-year-old Darlene Gant, a woman with stage-four breast cancer, as she wrote letters to be given to her 11-year-old son on his upcoming birthday, and at future events, such as his high school and college graduations and marriage.

Gant had made a YouTube video asking Roche subsidiary Genentech to release early the drug pertuzumab for compassionate use, a regulatory provision that allows a drug to be released early if no other treatment is available. The company had planned to release the drug in June, following its approval by the Food and Drug Administration, but Gant wasn’t expected to live that long. The FDA still expects to decide whether or not to approve the drug in June, and aside from the compassionate use release, it is not yet available to the public.

In response to the video and an effort by members of the public, Genentech released the drug early, and Gant took her first dose. She now expects to live a few months longer, CNN reported.


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Eisai appoints SVP, general counsel

BY Allison Cerra

WOODCLIFF LAKE, N.J. — Eisai announced that Allen Waxman has joined the company.

Waxman, who has worked at such companies as Kaye Schouler LLP and Pfizer, will serve as SVP and general counsel, where he will be responsible for leading the office of the general counsel and all legal matters for the company in the United States. Waxman also will be a member of the company’s executive committee and also will join others in providing leadership for a number of global legal matters for Eisai.

"We are very pleased to welcome Allen to Eisai," Eisai president and CEO Lonnel Coats said. "Allen’s expertise and leadership will help us continue driving sound, ethical and legally compliant business practices here at Eisai, contributing to our company’s human health care mission to help improve the lives of patients and their families."

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