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Future of pharmacy in focus at NACDS Regional

BY Michael Johnsen

Celebrating 85 years since the inception of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the Regional Chain Conference held in Florida this past week shared the same singular focus of many NACDS conferences – a laser focus on the future prosperity of community pharmacy.

“I love it when the whole family gets together,” 2018 NACDS Regional Chain Conference chairman Dan Ferrara, vice president pharmacy operations for Wegmans Food Markets, said. “As our environment evolves, we must evolve with it. We must embrace the opportunity to make a positive impact in the lives of others through healthcare.”

“Pharmacy is beautifully positioned, as it always has been, to take care of changing shifts in the customer and in the marketplace,” NACDS chairman Alex Gourlay, co-COO Walgreens Boots Alliance, said. “We start, as pharmacy, with a natural advantage, being really close to where people live, where they work, and where they spend time in their communities. I have been in the industry for 40 years – 36 years as a pharmacist. I understand through personal experience and I have a huge passion for what pharmacies and pharmacists can bring, and continuing to build trust is a key part of our future.”

Gourlay noted the importance of front-end focus: “I will always speak from a pharmacy point of view, because I believe pharmacy is what gives all of us the unique purpose and differentiation in the marketplace. At the same time, all of the products, services and solutions that come from retail product manufacturers are mission critical.”

Gourlay also described the importance of NACDS’ work on issues including direct and indirect remuneration fees, pharmacy reimbursement topics and the opioid abuse epidemic.

And while the issues of today’s retail pharmacy are wholly different from those facing pharmacists 85 years ago, the common denominator of working toward the delivery of better healthcare remains constant.

“An anniversary is a great time to look at NACDS through the eyes of those who created it,” Steven Anderson, NACDS president and CEO, said. “If they were operating pharmacies today, I can imagine the founders of NACDS sitting in this room joining in our talks about modern-day policy – about the need to have access to the patient; about prescription-drug reimbursement challenges; about being blindsided by a DIR fee. … Here is an assumption that is right on. It is not sustainable for a pharmacy to be paid for prescription services, only to find out later that it must give back some of that payment. Addressing that in a meaningful, workable and effective way remains our goal, and NACDS has worked with our allies on a consistent basis on this issue.”

Anderson emphasized the importance of working together through NACDS on pharmacy and front-end issues alike.

“Whatever the issue, NACDS is totally committed to bringing about workable and successful solutions, that only can be achieved by true collaboration,” Anderson said.

The NACDS Regional Chain Conference brings together traditional drug and grocery chains with between four and 250 locations, and their supplier partners who help to meet consumers’ needs in health and wellness and throughout the store. This year’s theme of “Igniting Possibilities” tapped into the Conferences’ reputation as an ideal place for chains and suppliers to address issues, share insights, learn from effective strategies and conduct business.

 

 

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Walmart leaps into virtual reality, acquires start-up

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Walmart has made a move to strengthen its commitment to virtual reality.

The discounter’s innovation lab, Store No. 8, has acquired Spatialand, a small VR platform and content studio. The studio will be tasked with creating the foundation of Store No 8’s third portfolio company, according to a blog entry on Store No. 8’s website.

The new division will be tasked with developing and exploring new products and uses of VR through immersive retail environments. The plan is to incorporate solutions into all facets of Walmart, online and offline, according to the blog.

Spatialand’s CEO Kimberly Cooper and Jeremy Welt, chief product officer, Store No. 8, will head up the new venture. Cooper has pioneered VR / AR / MR (mixed reality) techniques in storytelling and technology. Under her leadership, Spatialand’s VR platform has created immersive content destinations as seen in projects with Oculus, Intel, Reebok and Linkin Park.

Prior to joining Store No. 8, Welt has played key roles, including helping to launch YouTube’s first-ever commercial deal, as well as working on the Walt Disney Company’s acquisition of Maker Studios.

Katie Finnegan, principal and founder, Store No 8, will also join the team as interim CEO. This will be in addition to her role at the innovation lab, the blog explained.

“While it’s too early to share more about what the team will be working on next, we’re excited to get to work and share more in the future,” Finnegan said in the blog. “Together, we will continue to evolve this technology and develop new product exploration through immersive retail environments.”

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DIR fees tops list of legislative concerns among independents

BY Michael Johnsen

DIR fees remains the top legislative or regulatory thorn in the side of community pharmacists, according to the fourth annual survey of National Community Pharmacists Association members.

“NCPA’s annual survey of independent community pharmacies helps focus our advocacy efforts, which take on more urgency with a new Congress and president taking office,” Douglas Hoey, NCPA CEO, said. “This year’s top priorities are tied to the questionable business practices of lightly-regulated PBM corporations. Complaints about DIR fees have skyrocketed, so it is not surprising that reining in PBM clawbacks would top the list. The second and third highest ranked priorities are long-standing, PBM-generated challenges—the lack of transparency with generic prescription drug reimbursements and Medicare Part D’s ‘preferred pharmacy’ plans that prevent independent community pharmacy patients from having access to discounted copays.”

NCPA also is equally focused on the changed political landscape and potentially dramatic changes in health care, Hoey said. “As a result, we will make sure the voice of independent community pharmacies is heard. Our main objective is always to maintain patient access to prescription drug services at community pharmacies and continue pushing for pharmacists to be fully utilized as clinically-trained medication experts who improve health outcomes while reducing costs.”

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