PHARMACY

RxAlly offers powerful performance network

BY Jim Frederick

For decades, community pharmacy has waged a tireless campaign to gain recognition as an equal partner on the nation’s healthcare delivery team, and support for the role pharmacists can play as front-line patient care advocates. That campaign has become increasingly urgent as hospital and primary care costs go through the roof, payers seek lower-cost healthcare solutions and health reform shifts the focus from traditional modes of fee-for-service payment to a reimbursement system that rewards successful patient outcomes.


Pharmacists win that recognition every day within their communities as they provide accessible care and counseling for patients, and extend the framework of care initiated by family physicians, specialists or hospitals. But when more than 22,000 individual pharmacies band together to promote cost-effective, pharmacy-based care, that’s a powerful movement.


Such is the case with RxAlly, a unique, nationwide network of pharmacies focused on delivering personalized care to patients, lowering health costs and working within an integrated network of community care. The RxAlly Performance Network has gained new adherents and growing acceptance by arming its members with new tools to extend patient care and new programs to link those member pharmacies with the broader healthcare network within their communities.


“With more than 22,000 member pharmacies nationwide, RxAlly has brought together the largest national network of pharmacies to improve health and lower costs,” said CEO and chairman Bruce Roberts.


Led by founding member Walgreens, the nation’s top drug chain, RxAlly also numbers among its members many of the nation’s top regional chains and independents. “The launch of RxAlly represents a unique combination of the strengths of community pharmacies with the corporate resources of Walgreens,” said Doug Hoey, CEO of the National Community Pharmacists Association. “Health problems, such as the proper use of medications and the worsening primary care shortage, cry out for new solutions.”


Among recent moves, RxAlly’s network has developed a new, federally qualified Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, SmartD Rx. The new plan will be offered by its member pharmacies to the nation’s 46 million Medicare beneficiaries beginning in January 2013.

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PHARMACY

Eclipsing off-patent Lipitor, Humira tops Rx sales list

BY Jim Frederick

Just how much of an impact the loss of patent protection can have on a blockbuster drug became clear earlier this year.


In April, Thomson Reuters Pharma reported that Abbott Labs’ Humira (adalimumab), an advanced specialty medicine to treat arthritis, would replace Pfizer’s perennial powerhouse, the cholesterol drug Lipitor (atorvastatin) as the world’s top-selling drug in 2012. What’s more, Reuters noted in its analysis, Lipitor and the drug that briefly replaced it as the world’s biggest seller, Bristol-Myers Squibb’s and Sanofi’s blood-thinning drug Plavix (clopidogrel), might not even make the top 10 list.


It’s stark confirmation of the role price can play in the pharmaceutical market — and of the marketing power generic competitors can have when given access to a massive-selling drug that has lost its market exclusivity. Bristol-Myers reported that sales of Plavix plunged 60% in its fiscal second quarter 2012, following loss of patent protection, to $741 million.


But Humira’s rapid rise also reflects another powerful trend in pharmaceutical research and development: the growth of specialty drugs and the accelerating shift by drug makers away from traditional modes of small-molecule drug development to treat whole classes of illness, such as cardiovascular and respiratory disease. Increasingly, manufacturers are focusing their research and development on specialty and biotech research into more specialized medicines aimed at much smaller segments of the patient population, and banking on the higher premiums charged for those targeted medicines to offset the reduction in the number of blockbuster drugs taken by millions of patients.

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Health reform stands as justices, voters ratify Obamacare

BY Jim Frederick

The Obama administration’s ambitious overhaul of the nation’s healthcare system weathered some significant challenges in 2012 and came through relatively unscathed.


The first major test came in June, when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to overturn the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, while still ruling that the law’s provision requiring individuals to obtain health insurance was unconstitutional.


What saved the ACA was the court’s decision that the government’s mandate to purchase health insurance qualified as a tax. 


The high court’s decision to uphold the individual mandate “means that some 40 million Americans identified as uninsured will be required to purchase some level of insurance in 2014,” DSN senior editor Michael Johnsen reported June 28. “That will drive a good number of patients to medical homes and in theory, significantly increase the demand for maintenance prescriptions and other preventive or chronic healthcare services.”


The ACA leaped a second big hurdle on Election Day, Nov. 6, when voters returned President Barack Obama to office for a second term. The president’s re-election turned aside a serious challenge to the law, which Republican contender Mitt Romney had vowed to oppose, and kept health reform on track for full implementation by 2014.

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