PHARMACY

CARE Pharmacies expands reach beyond its legislative backyard

BY Michael Johnsen

CARE Pharmacies
CEO: Gerry Crocker
Corp. Offices: Alexandria, Va.
Number of Members/Stores: 55
Web page: www.carepharmacies.com

Dispensing prescriptions for more than 40 Congressional leaders in just one of its Washington, D.C.-area stores, CARE Pharmacies serves as an ideal touchstone on the real benefits delivered by community pharmacy. “Because of the proximity of our stores to Capitol Hill, there’s been opportunities for our stores to be sites for press conferences,” Gerry Crocker, CARE CEO, told Drug Store News. That’s a core competency for CARE Pharmacies, Crocker said, to work with either the National Community Pharmacy Association — with which CARE Pharmacies shares a building — or the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. “There’s nothing better than a pharmacist sitting down in front of a legislator … and have their voice heard.”

Collectively, the 55 CARE Pharmacies generated some $215 million in revenue last year and represent buying power of some $145 million. And while the group is currently looking to expand its store base, the targeted expansion is not necessarily measured by store counts, but rather purchasing power. “We’re targeting much larger entities,” Crocker said. “We’ve actually designed a new agreement for large independent operators who may want to join CARE, but not become a franchisee [as part of] an affiliate program,” he said. “That allows us to combine our purchasing volumes with theirs and enhance our [collective] ability to get deeper discounts from wholesalers.”

CARE Pharmacies is unique in that it represents more than just a buying group or pharmacy programs clearing house for its members. Each of CARE’s member pharmacies actually own a piece of the corporate entity. “While [CARE members] are building equity in their own enterprise, they’re also building equity in CARE,” Crocker noted.

CARE Pharmacies recently renegotiated its wholesaler agreement after completing a request-for-proposal process and decided to re-sign with Cardinal Health. “We took a really good look as we were doing our prospecting [for new members] at our existing agreement with our prime vendor/wholesaler to make sure we were competitive in all areas in markets we are interested in expanding into,” Crocker explained. “That [new wholesaler agreement] is really going to allow us to increase strides in the growth initiative; our target is 30% [growth in purchasing volume],” he said.

Already CARE Pharmacies extends beyond the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area with three pharmacies located in Vermont and a new affiliate just outside of Philadelphia. “This entity does $15 million per year in purchasing,” Crocker said, and represents the first CARE affiliate pharmacy.

Like many independents, CARE Pharmacies’ offerings are rooted in many “niche” pharmacy services not readily provided by larger chains. “I call it multidiscipline stores,” Crocker said. “They have traditional pharmacy, but they also have other models — a long-term care module, compounding, specialty,” he said. “We are heavily into specialty in our group. Of the $145 million in purchasing, $31 million is in specialty drugs. We are very unique in that regard.”

As a result, the group has held the Washington, D.C., AIDS Drug Assistance Program contract exclusively for the past seven years running, a program that was re-upped this past August. Like many specialty offerings, success is measured in improved outcomes. “HIV is really an ideal disease-state to track outcomes,” Crocker said. “The viral loads are readily available because these patients are constantly being monitored.” With that focus on improved outcomes, and the fact that CARE Pharmacies services the program in the nation’s capital, there is an opportunity not only to showcase the benefits of community pharmacy in housing specialty pharmaceutical programs, but also to potentially serve as a model for ADAP programs around the country, Crocker said.

Other specialty offerings in which CARE has gained a critical mass include the fertility market. “Some of the largest fertility pharmacies in the country … are in our group,” Crocker noted.

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Rhode Island develops prescription savings program for residents

BY Alaric DeArment

PROVIDENCE, R.I. Residents of Rhode Island can save an average 30% on prescription drugs using a card issued to them free of charge.

The card, RIRx, is similar to prescription drug cards issued in several states already through a non-profit program administered by United Networks of America. The cards are accepted at more than 54,000 national and regional pharmacies, according to the program’s Web site, www.FreeDrugCard.us.

The Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce will seek to create awareness and distribute the cards.

“The cost of healthcare is a top concern for Rhode Island’s residents,” chamber president Laurie White stated. “With unemployment on the rise, due to the stalling economy, many individuals and families are finding themselves without health insurance.”

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Anti-crime measures in Congress win strong endorsement from NACDS

BY Jim Frederick

WASHINGTON Congress is moving on two fronts to combat organized crime against pharmacies and other retailers, generating strong praise from chain pharmacy leaders.

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores Friday issued a letter to Reps. Brad Ellsworth, D-Ind., and Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, in support of their introduction of H.R. 1173, the Organized Retail Crime Act of 2009. The bill would define organized retail crime and expand fraud statutes to include the illegal use of gift cards, Universal Product Code labels, or radio identification transponders.

The Ellsworth-Jordan bill also recommends that the United States Sentencing Commission review and amend the sentencing guidelines for convicted organized retail crime offenders.

H.R. 1173 has gained bi-partisan backing from co-sponsors including Reps. Arthur Davis, an Alabama Democrat, and Republicans James Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin, John Kline of Minnesota and Mike Rogers of Michigan.

“This strong bipartisan legislation will help to stem the growing problem of organized retail crime, by providing much needed clarity within the U.S. criminal code to prosecute such criminal behavior as a federal felony, including facilitation of such illegal activities,” NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson told lawmakers in his letter Friday. “As you know, organized retail crime is responsible for over $30 billion in losses annually, resulting in increased costs for merchants, higher prices for consumers, and lost tax revenue for state and local governments. In addition to increased costs faced by retailers to cover losses and investment in additional security measures, consumers are placed at risk when package tampering occurs on consumer health care products, such as infant formula and OTC medications.”

NACDS, Anderson pointed out, “has long advocated for federal legislation that treats theft committed by organized, professional crime rings as a federal felony, especially since much of the stolen product is transported across state lines.”

Besides arming federal law enforcement officials with “the authority to pursue and prosecute individuals who engage in such criminal activities,” Anderson noted, the Ellsworth-Jordan bill “also targets criminals’ use of online marketplaces to sell the fruits of organized retail crime to unsuspecting consumers and establishes specific and narrow obligations for operators of online marketplaces.”

The chain pharmacy organization also endorsed H.R. 1166, the E-Fencing Enforcement Act of 2009. In a letter sent Friday to Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., who is chairman of the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, Anderson thanked Scott for introducing the measure.

“Your legislation will help to stem the growing problem of the use of online marketplaces by criminals to redistribute stolen merchandise, including those obtained through organized retail crime,” Anderson told the lawmaker.

H.R. 1166 would prosecute the electronic fencing of stolen products, and empower retailers to seek relief against high-volume sellers who engage in the e-fencing of stolen merchandise.

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