HEALTH

NACDS Pharmacy & Tech Conference offers manifesto of pharmacy’s value

BY Jim Frederick

SAN DIEGO —If ever there was a time for retail pharmacists to assert their role and ride to the rescue of a broken healthcare system, that time is now.

That, in essence, was the dominant theme of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ 2010 Pharmacy and Technology Conference here. NACDS leaders urged the hundreds of pharmacy retailers, suppliers and guests who attended the 53rd annual pharmacy event to press their case, both locally and nationally, for a larger stake in the healthcare system and fair reimbursement for a steadily growing list of health-and-wellness services by pharmacists.

“We must define the value for pharmacy in a reformed healthcare delivery system,” said NACDS chairman and CVS Caremark president and COO Larry Merlo at the conference’s opening business session Aug. 29. “We’ve identified several areas where pharmacy is in the best position to effectively and positively contribute to all three pillars of that healthcare equation: access, quality and cost. But most important of all, we must ensure that the value of the pharmacy industry, and its pharmacists, [is] recognized by payer reimbursement policies—not just for the products we sell, but for the services we provide.”

The healthcare system, said industry leaders at the four-day event, is in a state of crisis and will demand the kinds of cost-effective, patient-focused solutions that retail pharmacies can provide. Indeed, said NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson, retail pharmacy is going through a “historic paradigm change” as pharmacists and pharmacy leaders expand their patient care and clinical capabilities, and provide new solutions to a “broken” healthcare system undergoing rapid change. That change, he told attendees, would usher in a “renaissance” in how pharmacy is practiced and how pharmacists collaborate with other healthcare professions. “We need to build a case for a modern and viable reimbursement system” that takes into account pharmacy’s contributions to health and cost-effectiveness, Anderson asserted.

On the show floor

To that end, Anderson announced the launch of a new component of the bipartisan grassroots lobbying campaign, dubbed RxIMPACT Votes! “This is what political professionals refer to as a get-out-the-vote campaign,” he explained. “It encourages NACDS member company staff to register to vote, encourages them to volunteer for political campaigns of their choosing and then inspires them to vote on Election Day.”

The pharmacy gathering, which concluded Aug. 31, provided a packed schedule of information-sharing sessions and educational seminars, and showcased a host of new products and solutions for pharmacy retailers.

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GNC to sell branded retail, food-service equipment

BY Allison Cerra

LOS ANGELES General Nutrition Centers has inked a deal to sell its retail and food-service equipment with the help of IMG Licensing and The Legacy Cos.

IMG’s licensing agreement for GNC with The Legacy Cos. will give way to the creation of GNC-branded products, such as blenders and juicers, which will be distributed in the company’s stores. The products will retail from $150 to $400, IMG said.

The agreement will run through 2015.

“GNC has set the standard as an industry leader in the nutritional supplement business and is truly dedicated to helping its customers improve health and quality of life. Teaming up with The Legacy Cos. to expand its brand and create this new and exciting product line will continue to solidify GNC’s brand and its commitment to providing exceptional products and services to consumers,” said Tim Rothwell, IMG EVP and co-managing director of worldwide licensing.

Added GNC EVP Tom Dowd, “GNC is very excited to partner with a high-quality manufacturer that can produce a variety of products that complement the healthy lifestyle of our customers.”

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Pharmacies should get out of tobacco-selling, into smoking-cessation game

BY Antoinette Alexander

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT The news that San Francisco’s board of supervisors gave preliminary approval to ban tobacco sales at all retailers that operate pharmacies, including mass merchants and grocers, is a step in the right direction, because if drug stores are going to be banned from selling them, then all retail pharmacy outlets should be banned. However, there’s an even bigger picture to consider.

(THE NEWS: Report: San Francisco supervisors OK tobacco sales ban at pharmacies. For the full story, click here)

As many dollars as pharmacy retailers made selling cigarettes, there is much more to be gained in medication therapy management, and there is a significant opportunity for retail pharmacy to have a greater stake in the future of health care.

Cigarette smoking has been identified as the most important source of preventable disease, illness and death worldwide, according to the American Lung Association. Smoking-related diseases claim an estimated 443,000 American lives each year, including those affected indirectly by "secondhand" smoke.

Furthermore, smoking-related healthcare expenditures are a major drain on the U.S. healthcare system. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking cost the United States more than $193 billion in 2004, including $97 billion in lost productivity and $96 billion in direct healthcare expenditures, or an average of $4,260 per adult smoker.

Clearly, there’s a positive role that pharmacists can play in smoking cessation. To further support this, a recently published study on the "effect of a pharmacist-managed smoking-cessation clinic on quit rates" found that pharmacists can play a vital role in smoking cessation, especially in a group setting, as they can reach more people within the same time frame.

The study found that at three months and six months, 47.6% and 52.4% of patients reported being smoke-free, respectively. The study was conducted on patients that had participated in the pharmacist-managed Smoking Cessation Group Clinic at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Participants received structured group counseling on various topics associated with cessation.

It also should be noted that in August, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced that Medicare coverage for seniors trying to quit smoking was expanded to include everyone on Medicare.

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