PHARMACY

EPIC banks that independents drive innovation

BY Bruce Kneeland

EPIC
President and CEO: Angelo Voxakis
Corp. Offices: Cockeysville, Md.
Number of Members/Stores: 650
Web page: www.epicrx.com

One of the unique aspects of EPIC is its deep roots in building a consumer brand that touts the advantages of locally owned drug stores. To help accomplish this goal, Angelo Voxakis, president and CEO, said that in 2007 EPIC invested $2 million in consumer advertising to support its 650 primary members. And it is clear that the company’s Web site has been designed with the consumer in mind.

But Voxakis said that over the past few years, working in concert with Mark Barwig, who joined EPIC as EVP three years ago, growth of the organization has eclipsed its original focus on the mid-Atlantic states with EPIC now serving members in 27 Eastern and Midwestern states. While this growth is clearly a positive for the organization it has forced its leadership to put a moratorium on consumer advertising while it studies options to more effectively use these funds.

Voxakis, a pharmacist and pharmacy owner, was a principal in the founding of EPIC, and he feels the profession of pharmacy owes a lot to independent pharmacy. “Most of the true innovation in patient care can be traced back to independent pharmacists striving to find new and better ways to care of their patients,” he said.

EPIC is managed by a team of professionals located in Cockeysville, Md., the headquarters for the buying group, and Richmond, Va., the operations center for its managed care network. A 15-member board governs EPIC, and each member serves three-year staggered terms. Even though Voxakis is one of those that helped found the group, he still comes up for election every three years, he said.

The EPIC organization provides its members with three core services. First, the group contracts with wholesalers and other companies to provide members with special prices, terms and rebates on the group’s combined purchases. This is the foundation for the organization, and its 650 primary members all benefit directly from these contracts. EPIC’s annual trade show, where vendors are able to meet directly with members, is scheduled for Sept. 11 to 13 in Baltimore.

EPIC also has a subsidiary corporation, The EPIC Network, which provides services to 1,500 stores. The network manages a PSAO that negotiates with third-party payers. It also developed a proprietary product, Rx Regulator, which provides pre- and post-edits, adjudication, reconciliation and rebilling services to ensure stores achieve maximum reimbursement form their third-party contracts. And, Voxakis added, the newest product is a Medicare Part D compliance program that helps members comply with such requirements as employee background checks, fraud and abuse training.

Finally, Voxakis said the organization devotes considerable resources to government and regulatory affairs, both at the state and federal level. Currently, EPIC operates a Political Action Committee and contracts with lobbyists in five states to support its members.

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PHARMACY

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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