PHARMACY

NACDS names Guckian state affairs chief

BY Jim Frederick

ALEXANDRIA, Va. The National Association of Chain Drug Stores has named Sandra Kay Guckian, a pharmacy and policy veteran of the organization, as VP state government affairs.

Guckian, nee Sandra Jung, will oversee the work of five state government affairs directors based in regions throughout the U.S., as well as an administrative assistant based at NACDS headquarters. She reports directly to Carol Kelly, NACDS’ SVP government affairs and public policy.

In addition to leading the state government affairs team, Guckian manages state-level legislative and regulatory advocacy in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

Guckian replaces Gary Wirth, who has left the association to pursue other interests, according to NACDS spokesperson Chrissy Kopple. The appointment is effective immediately.

Guckian is one of the longest-serving members of NACDS’ management team, and last served as VP and deputy director of state government affairs. NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson called her promotion “the latest step in the transformation of NACDS to maximize its strategic focus and effectiveness.

“In her 13 years at NACDS, Sandra has established a reputation as a member-focused, highly substantive and strategically oriented leader who is absolutely passionate about pharmacy,” said Anderson. “Sandra is well equipped to work collaboratively with NACDS member company representatives, with state association partners, and with her dedicated colleagues on the state government affairs team and throughout NACDS to help advance pharmacy at all levels of government for the ultimate benefit of patient care.”

Guckian earned her B.S. in Pharmacy and M.S. in Pharmacy from The University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy, and completed an accredited residency at Parkland Memorial Hospital.  She has practiced as a pharmacist in a variety of settings including community retail pharmacy, hospital pharmacy and home health care practice.

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Avanir addresses the FDA’s concerns over Zenvia

BY Alaric DeArment

ALISO VIEJO, Calif. Drug maker Avanir Pharmaceuticals has responded to the Food and Drug Administration’s concerns over a drug for treating a disease that causes bouts of laughter and crying in patients, Avanir said Friday.

Avanir said it issued a complete response to the FDA’s approvable letter from October 2006 for the drug Zenvia (dextromethorphan and quinidine), a treatment for pseudobulbar affect. “Approvable letter” is the former name for what the FDA began calling a “complete response letter” in 2008. A complete response letter means that the FDA has finished reviewing a drug company’s approval application, but questions remain that preclude final approval.

The company said it expected the FDA to grant it a review period of six months, allowing the approval of Zenvia in fourth quarter 2010.

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NACDS Annual underscores value of pharmacy

BY Jim Frederick

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT The idyllic Palm Beach setting is splendid. The weather usually is sunny and sublime. And the service, food and amenities served up by The Breakers nearly always are flawless.

(THE NEWS: Time to assert pharmacy’s role, new NACDS chairman urges. For the full story, click here)

Ditto for the smoothly run meeting itself, which is a testament to NACDS’ unparalleled organizational abilities and highly competent staff. NACDS always makes running this massive, four-day event look easy – when in fact it must resemble, behind the scenes, the logistical challenges of a full-scale military operation.

All told, there are certainly far less pleasant settings in which to gather the industry’s top decision-makers for a rare chance to meet top-to-top, share ideas, iron out problems and mull the biggest challenges confronting retail pharmacy. But the work of Annual and the issues the attendees grapple with at The Breakers are no stroll on the beach.

In his first address as newly elected NACDS chairman, CVS/pharmacy president Larry Merlo reminded industry leaders why they really made the trek to Palm Beach. In an era of unprecedented challenges to the healthcare system, unsustainable growth in health costs and the uncertainties of a shiny new health-reform law, he said, “the time is now to examine the trends in the delivery of health care and the role of community pharmacy, not just today but into the future as well.”

For the leaders who heard Merlo’s speech, taking a hard look at “the role of community pharmacy” isn’t just an exercise in professional turf-building or some blue-sky theorizing about the future of the profession. As policymakers, patients and publicly and privately funded health plan payers search desperately for ways to deliver more effective, locally based patient care and disease management at lower costs, the role of the community pharmacist is a critical question. It goes to the heart of the retail pharmacy industry and its ability to survive.

Merlo’s address summed up the serious purpose that lay behind the annual Palm Beach gathering. “Most important of all,” he reminded NACDS members, “we must ensure that the value of the pharmacy industry and its pharmacists are recognized by payer reimbursement policies: not just for the products we sell, but for the services we provide.”

The meeting was also a chance for the industry to honor some of the best among its own ranks. This year’s choices for the Robert B. Begley Award and the Sheldon W. Fantle Lifetime Achievement Award didn’t disappoint: both awards went to individuals who represent the best qualities of people-oriented leadership in retail pharmacy and health-and-wellness product sales.

When Merlo announced that Charlie Burnett and Stanley Barshay had been chosen as this year’s recipients, both men and their wives ascended the stage to thunderous applause. Barshay, honored with the Begley Award, was recognized for his distinguished career at Schering-Plough and American Home Products, his ability to grow business for both the companies he represented and the retail chains he helped supply, and, not least, for his personal warmth and integrity.

Burnett, the only individual to be honored with both the Fantle Award and the NACDS Harold W. Pratt Award for his efforts on behalf of pharmacy, was a clear favorite for the night’s retail honor. A former U.S. Navy corpsman, he has been integral to pharmacy retailing since the 1950s.

When Costco founder and CEO Jim Sinegal lured Burnett to his company in 1986 to develop the warehouse club giant’s fledgling pharmacy business, Burnett brought a wealth of big-box retail pharmacy experience from his years with FedMart and Save Mart Supermarkets.

Sinegal gave a touching speech in a surprise appearance on stage at the awards ceremony Tuesday night, telling well over a thousand NACDS attendees that Burnett’s devotion and leadership were the reason Costco was a success in U.S. pharmacy retailing. “I knew Charlie was the right man to grow our pharmacy business,” he said.

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