PHARMACY

GNP indie program gets a makeover as ABC launches Premier franchise

BY Jim Frederick

LAS VEGAS AmerisourceBergen has big plans for its 5,000 independent drug store customers.

The drug wholesale and health services giant unveiled those plans at its National Healthcare Conference & Exposition July 17, when company leaders announced the launch of GNP Premier, a new best-in-breed franchise program for its top independent pharmacy customers. The program will be offered to independents who subscribe to ABC’s 25-year-old store support and branding program, Good Neighbor Pharmacy, and to other independent owner-operators who want a franchise and store-service package that combines all the company’s tools for independents under a full-service menu of programs to help them improve their business.

The goal, company leaders said at the annual conference and trade show, is to better leverage the sheer scale and national reach of GNP, while connecting its pharmacy members more directly with the full range of resources offered by GNP and its parent company.

“This is really an extraordinary leap for us,” said David Neu, ABC’s senior vice president of retail sales. The move to a best-in-class franchising program for its top independent drug store customers, he added, “is probably the most fundamental objective we have right now.”

Addressing hundreds of pharmacy owners, supplier representatives, pharmacy students and guests during the conference kickoff, Neu announced a major milestone for GNP: the addition of a 3,000th GNP store with the decision by another ABC pharmacy customer to join the network, just days before the conference kickoff.

The wholesale and health care giant will begin actively encouraging its top pharmacy customers to enlist in the Premier GNP franchise program, charging them a proposed monthly fee of $399 in exchange for the full menu of services from ABC.

The centerpiece of those services will be personalized business coaching for pharmacy owners and franchisees, utilizing a new analytical tool called GNP InSite. “By analyzing data derived from GNP InSite, a database housing operational intelligence from hundreds of independent pharmacies, GNP Premier will provide pharmacies with information on how they compare with similar stores,” noted ABC in a statement. “This information will then be used to develop customized business solutions and help individual pharmacies identify, implement and measure business improvement practices.”

GNP Premier will also offer owners tools to help them streamline workflow and provide better patient safety programs and health care services in the store.

“In today’s economic climate, independent pharmacies need an edge to compete with big chains,” said Neu. “This program will help independent pharmacists with the business aspects of their jobs, so they can focus on what they do best—providing superior patient care.”

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PHARMACY

BMS settles with EPA over environmental issues

BY Drew Buono

NEW YORK Bristol-Myers Squibb has agreed to resolve Clean Air Act violations by reducing its emissions of ozone-depleting refrigerants at multiple facilities, paying about $3.65 million to upgrade some facilities.

The company’s settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency requires it to retire or retrofit 17 industrial refrigeration units by July 2009 at facilities in Mt. Vernon and Evansville, Ind.; Hopewell, N.J.; and Humacao and Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, the EPA said.

The units use hydrochlorofluorocarbons as refrigerants in the industrial process or in air conditioners. BMS agreed to change the units to use only non-ozone-depleting refrigerants, the EPA said.

The settlement, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, also requires the company to retire two comfort-cooling units at its New Brunswick, N.J., plant and connect the air conditioners to the company’s new centralized refrigeration system. The new system uses water-chilled coolers to minimize the use of chemical agents.

The company also must take steps to ensure compliance with EPA regulations at 13 of its facilities and pay $127,000 in fines. It also must submit three annual reports to each EPA region describing actions it has taken to comply with the settlement.

Following an EPA information request concerning its Evansville, Indiana, facility, BMS voluntarily audited 25 other facilities and reported potential violations. According to the EPA, the audit found potential violations at facilities in Connecticut, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Puerto Rico.

BMS said it will continue to monitor all sites.

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Vical bird flu vaccine successful in phase I

BY Alaric DeArment

SAN DIEGO A phase I study by Vical has found that its vaccine against avian influenza can protect against the virus, the company announced Thursday.

The double-blind, placebo-controlled study examined 100 volunteers ages 18 to 45 who received two injections of the vaccine and found that 50 to 67 percent of patients receiving 0.5mg and 1mg doses of the vaccine had immune responses that could protect against the H5N1 strain of avian flu.

The vaccine is made from DNA derived from plasmids, small pieces of genetic material, and designed to provoke an immune response.

H5N1 originated in Asia and spread to Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Of 385 people infected, 243 have died. Experts fear it could mutate into a form transmissible between humans and cause a global pandemic that would kill millions.

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