PHARMACY

Community-based diabetes efforts should involve retail pharmacies

BY Alaric DeArment

The YMCA is offering a demonstration project to show that its YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program — part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s broader National Diabetes Prevention Program — can lower the incidence of Type 2 diabetes and reduce medical costs incurred by Medicare. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation is funding the project, whereby YMCAs in 17 communities that deliver the program will offer it at no cost to 10,000 Medicare enrollees over the next three years, and the YMCA expects it to save Medicare $4.2 million over three years and $53 million over six years.

It’s been said that, "It takes a village to raise a child," and because chronic disease is an issue that affects communities as a whole – not just individuals – it would make sense for community-based organizations to target a growing national health crisis like the diabetes epidemic. According to the American Diabetes Association, which is collaborating with the YMCA on the program, 25.8 million people in the United States have diabetes, as well as 79 million with prediabetes.

While the YMCA is not directly involved with any retail pharmacies in the program, its third-party administrator is the Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance, an initiative sponsored by UnitedHealth Group, which does work with retail pharmacies. For example, in November 2012, Rite Aid announced the rollout of a diabetes-control program at 25 stores in Cleveland, allowing enrollees to connect with pharmacists trained in diabetes care and medication therapy management to receive private, one-on-one consultations providing education and support. One of the 17 communities where the YMCA is piloting the program also happens to be Cleveland.

This may offer a glimpse of what retail pharmacies could do when it comes to community-based efforts to combat diabetes. "If retail drug stores are screening people for diabetes, they could refer people to the YMCA’s diabetes-prevention program," YMCA spokeswoman Kelly Kennai told Drug Store News.

But pharmacy retailers do a lot more than screening: They offer MTM, disease-state management and education. And those with loyalty card programs tied to health and wellness — such as Rite Aid’s Wellness+ for Diabetes and CVS’ ExtraCare Advantage for Diabetes — provide a carrot for patients in addition to the stick they have to put in their hand in the form of special offers on products, education and more. In addition, many retailers, such as supermarket operator Ahold USA, have trained their pharmacists to be diabetes specialists.

Retail pharmacists are a key component of the nation’s healthcare system and widely regarded as the most accessible healthcare professionals. There are no community pharmacies without "community," and there’s little reason why they shouldn’t be involved in broader efforts to combat diabetes.

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PHARMACY

‘World Class’ in session at WAG U

BY Rob Eder

Walgreens on Friday opened the doors to "Walgreens University,” an internal education center equipped with technology-enhanced classrooms, a mock drug store and video-conferencing capabilities. The new learning center will be the base of operations for employee educational programs offered online and in regional locations nationwide.

Competing in the new age of retail, where bricks, clicks and anything in between compete for a larger share of the omnichannel customer, will require new skill sets and a generally better educated workforce at every level of the organization, but particularly at the store level. The winners will create a more personalized shopping experience that leverages the expertise in its stores. It will continue to create new positions in the store — health guides, more beauty advisors, more advanced roles for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians.

By doubling its investment in employee training, Walgreens is acknowledging what other world-class companies have come to acknowledge. U. S. companies overall increased spending on training and development 12% last year — the highest growth rate in eight years, according to research from Bersin by Deloitte, a human resources consulting firm. That’s a reverse of recession-year spending in 2008 and 2009, when such investments dropped by 11% both years.

 

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FDA commissioner praises generic industry’s efforts on quality, shortages, follow-on biologics in GPhA speech

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK — One of the Food and Drug Administration’s chief duties is ensuring the quality of food and drug products, and that was the focus of a keynote address delivered Friday morning by FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg at the Generic Pharmaceutical Association’s annual meeting.

In the address, viewed via webcast, Hamburg addressed issues ranging from quality to drug shortages to follow-on biologics, praising the generics industry’s role in contributing more than $1 trillion in savings to the healthcare system over the past decade.

"There are few American households that have not benefited from the success of the generic drug industry," Hamburg said.

One thing that may help that along is the Generic Drug User Fee Amendments to the Prescription Drug User Fee Act, passed last year, which created a system of user fees to address the FDA’s backlog of generic drug approval applications.

"You all really stepped up to the plate to make sure that it got done," Hamburg said. "And even though it came at a cost literally and figuratively, it was the right thing to do."

Noting that quality had made the U.S. drug industry the "gold standard for the world," Hamburg nevertheless cited a study from the Harvard Medical School showing that of 506 physicians surveyed, half reported negative perceptions about the quality of generics, though the FDA requires generics to be therapeutically equivalent to their branded counterparts. Physicians aged 55 years and older were three to four times more likely to report negative perceptions, Hamburg said.

"We’ve chosen to make quality one of our highest priorities this year," she said. "You want providers and the public alike to never have to question their confidence in the high quality of generic products."

Quality also was an important factor when Congress enacted an abbreviated pathway for the approval of follow-on biologics as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Hamburg said. The pathway divides follow-on biologics into two categories: biosimilars, which are highly similar to the reference products, and those that are interchangeable. The FDA has yet to receive an approval application for a biosimilar, she said, but the industry had expressed significant interest. The agency expects to see formal applications arrive in the near future, and FDA scientists had been meeting with manufacturers.

Hamburg also praised the industry’s role in addressing the problem of drug shortages, which have risen dramatically since 2006 due to a number of factors ranging from problems securing raw materials and manufacturing issues. Most of the shortages involve generic injectables, particularly used in hospitals, and Hamburg cited a survey showing that 82% of hospitals had to delay patient treatments due to shortages, along with reports of deaths among patients who couldn’t get needed drugs in time. The agency responded by working with industry to find alternative sources of drugs, allowing temporary importation of foreign supplies and using alternative manufacturing processes, and last year, the industry and the FDA prevented 282 shortages, 87 more than in 2011.

"As a result of these combined efforts, patients’ needs are now being met," she said.

Overall, Hamburg complimented the industry on its investments in keeping generic drugs available, safe and effective. "It’s evident that several generic manufacturers have already begun to make very substantial investments to this end," she said. "This will be money well spent, both for patients and the bottom line."

 

 

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