PHARMACY

PBA Health’s operating and marketing efficiency leads to overall growth

BY Bruce Kneeland

PBA Health (DBA TrueCare Pharmacies)
CEO: Nick Smock
Corp. Offices: Kansas City, Mo.
Number of Members: 1,800
Web page: www.pbahealth.com

Since 2006 PBA Health has grown from slightly more than 1,000 members to 1,800, making it the fastest-growing major pharmacy group, according to Nick Smock, CEO of the Kansas City, Mo.-based cooperative. One of the things that made this growth possible is the organization’s realization that, while buying “right” will always be a key element of success for any pharmacy, two other areas are just as important: operational excellence and effective marketing.

On the buy side, PBA Health operates a distribution center and is a voting member of HDMA, the trade organization owned by the nation’s full-line wholesalers. The PBA Health warehouse ships pharmaceuticals, OTC, seasonal and opportunity buys. PBA Health also contracts with three wholesalers, allowing its members to choose the wholesaler they prefer. The group’s annual trade show — held this year in Overland Park, Kan., from Aug. 14 to 16 — provides members with the ability to meet with more than 40 companies that provide special prices, discounts and rebates.

On the operations side, PBA Health works closely with two pharmacy management system companies, two IVR companies, a credit card processing firm and a robotics vendor. While members can use any technology vendor they choose, the group can negotiate better pricing and work closely with vendors on software features that drive proprietary management and marking programs, by working with a small number of companies, according to Smock.

Among the key programs PBA Health offers are TriNet, a third party network; Ensure Pay, an electronic claims central pay and reconciliation service; an in-house PBM; and ScriptCard, a cash card program that helps members market themselves to the uninsured or underinsured. ScriptCard+ supports a flat-fee generic program.

PBA Health is aggressive in third-party reimbursement, government relations and regulatory affairs. Dale Smith, a well-known fixture in several state capitals, heads up these initiatives at PBA Health. The group expends considerable effort to keep abreast of issues at the state and federal level, and shares this information in a compelling and organized manner with its members, Smock said. It also calls upon members to contact elected and appointed government officials in an effort to effect change that will best serve independent pharmacies and the patients they serve.

Many of the group’s 80 employees are involved in operating the warehouse and staffing a customer call center. PBA Health also has a team of advertising and marketing people that do market research for stores, design logos and even develop customized ad materials. The organization supports DBA True Care Pharmacies, a program that provides overall support for members and provides interior and exterior signage, POP materials and even has an impressive private-label program.

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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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