Where everyone wants to be … but how to get there?
“I have 20 years in the retail sector, and I know that not every pharmacist can be a specialist in a retail environment. So we give the pharmacists a higher level of confidence by using technology to target specific [national drug codes]. If a limited- distribution product or a specialty script that they either don’t stock or they have never seen before comes across the counter, the computer directs them to Hy-Vee Pharmacy Solutions. Now they can tell the patient, ‘Yes,’ instead of ‘I’m not sure if I can help you,’ or ‘We don’t stock that medication.’”
That’s how Mike Agostino, president of Amber Pharmacy, described his company’s relationship with Hy-Vee, a chain of 230-plus supermarket pharmacies spread throughout the Midwest, during our annual DSN Industry Issues Summit/Specialty Pharmacy Roundtable in late November. The complete transcript is available online at DrugStoreNews.com/SpecialtyPharmacy — it’s a must-read for any one who needs to understand the critical issues facing specialty pharmacy today and in the years to come.
And according to OncoMed CEO Burt Zweigenhaft, another member of our panel, that includes just about everyone who makes their business in pharmacy: “Specialty pharmacy is 50% of the market; it’s 50% of the growth. It’s where everyone in pharmacy wants to be,” he implored his fellow panelists.
I‘ve been giving a lot of thought to these comments over the last several weeks, which have included a busy travel schedule. In 4-of-5 trips, the subject of specialty pharmacy was a major topic of conversation. Zweigenhaft is right: Specialty pharmacy is where everyone in pharmacy wants to be. The million-dollar question is how to get there?
According to IMS VP industry relations Doug Long, who spoke Feb. 6 at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Regional Chain Meeting on current trends and forecasts for the U.S. pharmaceutical market, specialty pharmacy dollars are growing more than 10% on a 12-month moving annual total basis.
Where is that business landing? Mail order is the big winner, with about $20 billion worth of the market, and clearly pacing the growth in specialty pharmacy, with dollar sales up more than 16%, during the same 12-month period. In chain pharmacies, specialty pharmacy is worth about $8 billion, Long said, up about 1.6%. And while the base is much smaller at about $4.2 billion, independent drug stores were growing specialty pharmacy dollars at more than 5%.
There were 35 new drug approvals in 2011 — the second largest yearly amount in more than a decade, Long said, and most of these were specialty drugs. The current new drug development pipeline is expected to bring more of the same for many years to come. It will be critical for pharmacy retailers like the regional chain executives Long addressed in February, “to capitalize on as many of these opportunities [in specialty pharmacy] as possible,” he said.
That doesn’t mean that every pharmacy chain in America needs to make an internal commitment to specialty pharmacy. It doesn’t work in every store, and certainly not every pharmacist can be a specialist in some of these more advanced disease states. But business relationships like the partnership Amber has with Hy-Vee and the hundreds of providers that make up networks like the Armada Specialty Pharmacy Network, can facilitate the delivery of specialty pharmacy in a manner that is transparent to the patient; all they know is their preferred pharmacy continued to provide all of their pharmacy needs.
Long’s comments reminded me of something that I had believed for a long time — as the specialty pharmacy market continues to grow, the universe will continue to expand as well. Not every pharmacy will play the same role. Big pharmacy retailers like CVS and Walgreens will do it themselves. Retailers like Hy-Vee will find partners.
I agree with Burt Zweigenhaft: Specialty is where everyone in pharmacy wants to be right now. And this is how they are going to get there.
Rob Eder is the editor in chief of The Drug Store News Group, publishers of Drug Store News, DSN Collaborative Care and Specialty Pharmacy magazines. You can contact him at [email protected].
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ACC launches CardioSmartTxt
WASHINGTON — The American College of Cardiology has launched a free texting program that’s designed to help prevent and manage cardiovascular disease.
ACC said CardioSmartTxt will provide support, information, advice and tips on heart disease prevention, as well as disease-specific states, via two channels — CardioSmartTxt Prevent and CardioSmartTxt Quit — which respectively are a six-month program aimed at the proactive prevention of cardiovascular disease and general heart health and wellness, and an intensive two-month smoking cessation support program to help users achieve smoking cessation goals.
"As the nation’s cardiologists, the ACC plays a crucial role in battling this disease and CardioSmartTxt is an important tool in helping to keep America’s hearts healthy by engaging with our patients and future patients through their phone or mobile device," ACC CEO Jack Lewin said. "By encouraging and helping everyone to live smarter and healthier lifestyles, we can help save lives."
Interested participants can sign up at CardioSmart.org.
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Foulkes discusses CVS Caremark’s integrated business at Wharton Health Care Conference
PHILADELPHIA — CVS Caremark’s chief healthcare strategy officer on Friday outlined how the company’s integrated offerings — retail pharmacy, pharmacy benefit management and retail clinics — are helping patients achieve better health by working to increase medication adherence and targeting behaviors to improve treatment for chronic diseases during a panel discussion at the Wharton Health Care Business Conference.
At the Wharton Health Care Business Conference, Innovation in a Changing Health Care Environment, Helena Foulkes, EVP and chief healthcare strategy and marketing officer, showed how CVS Caremark is developing innovative programs, such as Pharmacy Advisor, and expanding care for chronic diseases at MinuteClinic locations to provide personalized care that improves patient health outcomes, while working to better manage and reduce overall medical costs.
Foulkes participated in a panel focused on innovations in wellness and healthcare delivery. She said CVS Caremark has brought together retail pharmacy, retail clinics and PBM services to develop unique pharmacy care products. One example is Maintenance Choice, a program that allows customers to pick up 90-day prescriptions at mail-order costs whether they are shopping at retail or receiving medications through the mail. Foulkes said CVS Caremark also is expanding MinuteClinic because it offers convenient quality care at a fraction of the cost patients pay in other healthcare settings.
"These products and our business are real market innovations that are helping people on the path to better health," Foulkes said. "CVS Caremark has integrated three health care services to create a pharmacy innovation company. Our business model is unique and we reach patients in many different ways. But, if you stand back and look at everything we do — from pharmacists counseling patients about their medications to nurses monitoring patients’ chronic diseases — we do more every day to promote wellness than almost any company in the world.”
CVS Caremark employs more than 24,000 pharmacists and nearly 2,000 nurse practitioners and, between retail store and clinic visits and its PBM services, provides pharmacy health care to more than five million people every day.
"We recognize the central role pharmacists play in delivering access to affordable, quality care and we are uniquely positioned to leverage the expertise of pharmacists and nurse practitioners to positively impact health outcomes and reduce costs," Foulkes said.
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CVS transformed retail-based clinics from an entrepreneurial start up concept to a national network of branded primary care centers. When they rapidly followed with the Caremark acquisition, they blew past 107 year old Walgreens and challenged the American healthcare industry to think beyond its assumption that healthcare is and will remain a local business. Since then, however, they have not maintained their leadership in the retail clinic field, failing to recognize, as Walgreens did, that the stand alone, start up, nurse practitioner clinic model is not sustainable. Similarly, their alignment with the Cleveland Clinic has yet to deploy what could be a highly innovative model of integrated health services, connecting patients, nurses, physicians and homes electronically to deliver truly world class care at affordable prices. Under Ms. Foulkes' leadership the company may again rise to the forefront of healthcare innovation, as the entire country prepares for the opportunities coming in 2014 and beyond. Ron Hammerle, Chairman Health Resources, Ltd. Tampa, Florida