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PrescribeWellness launches patient engagement tool through the American Pharmacy Allliance

BY Michael Johnsen

ALISO VIEJO, Calif. — PrescribeWellness on Tuesday announced a partnership with the American Pharmacy Alliance to provide independent retail pharmacies with a low-cost, easy-to-implement patient engagement solution. The APA is a consortium of leading pharmacy software providers for more than 12,000 independent and small chain pharmacies in the United States.                                                                  

“Lack of medication adherence is a major burden on the American healthcare system, and APA’s processing expertise combined with PrescribeWellness’ communications platform allows independent pharmacies to increase frequency of purchase, patient loyalty and medication adherence,” stated Al Babbington, CEO PrescribeWellness. "Independent pharmacies play an important role in preventive care, and their participation is critical to lowering overall healthcare costs."                 

The PrescribeWellness automated, personalized-communication solution focuses on delivering the right message at the right time, in the right language and through the right channel, in the actual voice of the independent neighborhood pharmacist. PrescribeWellness has executed millions of targeted patient interactions using its “Voice of Authority” solution, which has led to increased patient satisfaction, loyalty and retention, and has been documented to improve medication adherence among pharmacies in 12 states. The partnership will roll out regionally in May with full national coverage planned by September.

“The APA and its pharmacy system members have a very real commitment to our goal of expanding and improving patient-level services and adding more efficiency to the healthcare delivery system,” commented APA president Karl Steele. “This partnership with PrescribeWellness provides independent pharmacies with additional tools to compete with the big pharmacy chains.”

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Stella Artois launches new cider to market on May 13

BY Jason Owen

ST. LOUIS — Stella Artois is introducing Stella Artois Cidre to the surging U.S. cider market, Anheuser-Busch announced today.

Stella Artois Cidre is a crisp, distinctive European-style cider made with apples hand-picked from wine growing regions, the brewer stated. Initially it will be available in 26 U.S. states, with further expansion possible in 2014. Sales to retailers begin on May 13.

Adam Oakley, vice president of import, craft and specialty brands at Anheuser-Busch, said the cider category is seeing 110% growth in the United States, and this new brand helps to meet the growing demand for premium ciders with a more complex taste profile.

“Stella Artois Cidre is designed to be savored and is very different from sweeter, domestic U.S. ciders,” Oakley said. “Stella Artois Cidre has the potential to change people’s perceptions of cider here, offering a refreshing alternative to white wine.”

With the U.S. cider market seeing triple-digit growth, it has become one of the fastest-growing beverage categories in the United States. Early growth in the category was driven primarily by sweeter domestic ciders; this has been balanced of late by a consumer demand for drier, premium European-style ciders.

“Cider drinkers are now approaching cider with a sophistication similar to that of wine drinkers,” said Marc Stroobandt, a Belgian master sommelier. “To capture their interest, ciders certainly need to be refreshing and savory, but people also want something a little more complex and distinct, which Stella Artois Cidre offers.”

Stella Artois Cidre will be fermented in Baldwinsville, N.Y., using apples picked from wine-growing regions in North and South America. At 4.5% alcohol by volume, Stella Artois Cidre is available in two packaging configurations: four-packs of 12-oz. bottles and single, 24-oz. bottles.


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NCPA gearing up for busy two days on Capitol Hill tackling issues critical to community pharmacy

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — The National Community Pharmacists Association is expecting its highest turnout in two years for the association’s 2013 Legislative and Government Affairs conference being held Tuesday and Wednesday. NCPA intends to address many key issues impacting community pharmacy with legislators during the two-day conference. 

The issues are paramount to keeping independent pharmacy owners in business. "[I am] concerned about the pushing out of smaller [healthcare] providers," Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., told journalists during a conference call Tuesday morning. "Without positive cash flow, the doors don’t stay open," he said, emphasizing the need to stop what most in the independent pharmacy community see as abusive audit practices by pharmacy benefit managers. 

Establishing greater transparency in the operations of PBM was a recurring theme across NCPA’s legislative agenda over the next two days. "Small providers are being held hostage by a system that most people don’t understand," Scott added. 

One of the many key issues for NCPA includes legislation that enables smaller pharmacies to compete across PBM pharmacy networks by instituting PBM audit reforms that prohibit abusive audits without eliminating altogether a tool to identify waste and fraud. Today, PBMs are so large and community pharmacy so small that the balance of power skews heavily in favor of PBMs, noted Doug Hoey, NCPA CEO. That’s not representative of a traditional business relationship, Hoey said. "We’re looking for balance."

As many as 24 states have instituted some form of audit reform legislation, Hoey noted. "Now it’s time for a uniform federal law."

Another critical issue for NCPA is MAC pricing for generics. MAC pricing is not updated frequently enough to accommodate generic cost spikes, Hoey said. "There’s no reason why, in this day and age, [MAC] prices cannot be updated instantaneously," Hoey suggested. 

Other important issues NCPA members will address with leaders in Congress include creating an opportunity for community pharmacists to participate in PBM preferred networks, expand the role of the pharmacist to incorporate more medication therapy management reimbursement opportunities and compounding legislation.

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