President Obama declares H1N1 a national emergency
WASHINGTON The White House on Sunday announced that President Barack Obama signed a National Emergency Declaration on the H1N1 influenza pandemic that allows healthcare systems to quickly implement disaster plans should they become overwhelmed.
“As experts expected, H1N1 flu is moving rapidly throughout the country and the majority of states now have widespread influenza activity,” the White House stated. “This declaration gives authority for the Dept. of Health and Human Services to waive certain regulatory requirements for healthcare facilities in response the ongoing pandemic. Specifically, healthcare facilities will be able to submit waivers to establish alternate care sites, and modified patient triage protocols, patient transfer procedures and other actions that occur when they fully implement disaster operations plans.”
GPhA applauds increased funds for Office of Generic Drugs
ARLINGTON, Va. A boost in funding for the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Generic Drugs has received praise from an organization representing the country’s generic drug industry.
The Generic Pharmaceutical Association heralded the passage and signing of the 2010 Agriculture Appropriations bill, which set aside $51.5 million for the Office of Generic Drugs, a $5 million increase over last year.
“As Americans increasingly turn to generic medicines as a means to improve their health at affordable costs, this infusion of resources should help the FDA provide more timely access to generic drugs,” GPhA president and CEO Kathleen Jaeger said in a statement. “The Office of Generic Drugs has been severely under-funded for several years, and there is no doubt that the dedicated scientists and reviewers at FDA need more resources.”
Wielding care and service, indie pharmacy holds firm amid economic, profit hurdles
NEW YORK For two decades or more, independent pharmacy owners have been slammed by managed care, steady prescription reimbursement cuts, chain competition and regulatory hurdles. But in the Darwinian struggle of an unforgiving pharmacy market, the strongest are holding firm.
As the 2009 NCPA Digest makes clear, there’s still a big niche in a crowded retail market for independent community pharmacists who remember their customers’ names and personal histories, cultivate relationships with their patients, and go above and beyond with home delivery, in-the-aisle patient counseling or other extra services. The best independents have traded on those services to forge deep and lasting connections with generations of patients, and their roots within thousands of communities across the United States go deep enough to withstand challenges that have staggered some other retail channels.
The Digest findings are somewhat remarkable. In 2008, while the economy froze and a collapse in consumer confidence swept through the retail landscape like a tsunami, the independent segment of retail pharmacy managed a 7.6% average gain in sales, to an average annual total of $3.9 million. The total count of independent drug stores, as measured by the National Community Pharmacists Association, also held steady, at 22,728.
Even more noteworthy: the prospect of owning their own pharmacy continues to draw new proponents among new pharmacy graduates and practicing professionals. More than 1,200 new owner-operated drug stores entered the market last year, NCPA reported.
Where independents lag behind the powerful, deep-pockets pharmacy chains, of course, is in their ability to make high-ticket investments in cutting-edge pharmacy automation, advertising and other expensive retailing and technology tools. But even here, owner-operated drug stores are closing the gap, thanks in part to their participation in pharmacy marketing and franchise programs offered by the largest drug wholesale companies.
McKesson Corp. SVP Tim Canning, who is president of McKesson’s Health Mart franchise pharmacy division, said the support provided by the wholesale and health services giant feeds into the strengths independent pharmacists already wield as community-based patient care specialists.
“By providing our franchisees with access to advanced technology and best-in-class clinical and retail support, Health Mart pharmacists have the time and resources they need to develop relationships with their patients and counsel them on their individual healthcare needs,” Canning asserted recently.
One need look no farther than the latest consumer poll numbers from J.D. Power and Associates to see how well patients respond to that kind of personal attention. Independent pharmacy advocates had to like the results, since consumers surveyed by J.D. Power rated Health Mart and Medicine Shoppe — both of which are owner-operated drug store franchises — tops in overall customer satisfaction. Chain drug store pharmacies, by comparison, scored measurably lower.
All the same, glass-half-empty types could find plenty to fret about in the newest Digest findings. The biggest concern: that indies will lack the negotiating clout and financial reserves to stay ahead of the relentless downward pressure on dispensing margins as PBMs and other third-party payers press their advantage as the dominant source of payments to retail pharmacy.
Closely coupled with that threat is the inescapable fact that the government now accounts for more than half of all prescription reimbursements through Medicare Part D, Medicaid and the Tricare military health program. Further reductions in pharmacy payments by Medicaid or other programs could push many mom-and-pop drug stores over the edge.