PHARMACY

Eyeing health reform and urgent change, chain pharmacy leaders gather in Boston

BY Jim Frederick

BOSTON Hundreds of chain pharmacy leaders are gathered this week with pharmacy, healthcare, government and economics experts to explore solutions to the current healthcare crisis, expand pharmacy’s role in the nation’s health reform debate and look at new innovations in pharmacy practice, patient care and technology.

Drawing those leaders together: the 52nd annual Pharmacy and Technology Conference conducted by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. The event kicked off Sunday with addresses from conference chairman Dennis Wiesner, senior director of privacy, pharmacy and government affairs for Texas-based supermarket and pharmacy retailer H-E-B; and NACDS chairman Andy Giancamilli, who is CEO for Katz Group North America, including Snyders Drug Stores in the U.S. and Rexall Pharma Plus in Canada. Capping the first-day session was a speech by former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who served for many years as a Democratic senator from North Dakota and currently advocates on behalf of overhauling the fractured U.S. healthcare system, expanding insurance coverage to all Americans and increasing the role pharmacy plays in patient care and a more cost-effective health system.

That role, said Daschle, can only become a reality when pharmacists gain increased recognition and reimbursement for their efforts in patient health and wellness, disease management and medication therapy management. And creating a “fair reimbursement” for the provision by pharmacists of MTM and other patient-care and wellness services, he added, is essential to creating a more cost-effective health system and controlling health costs now spiraling out of control.

“You are providers of part of the answers” to the health care crisis,” Daschle told his audience. The pharmacy profession, he added, is “at the table in part because you’re viewed as part of the solution.”

In a talk that cited Pres. John F. Kennedy’s leadership in sending a man to the moon, Giancamilli exhorted chain pharmacy leaders at the event to be relentless in their pursuit of innovation in areas like the delivery of health and wellness services to patients and the adoption of health information technology and other technologies critical to a more cost-effective health network.

“So, today I ask you: what is your moon, and what are you doing to reach it?” Giancamilli urged listeners. “I ask this question out of a burning desire to see pharmacy achieve its full potential, for the ultimate benefit of the public. And I admit a little self interest as well, because a rising tide indeed lifts all boats.

In addition, said the NACDS chairman, “there is another reason I want to speak about innovation. It is to deliver a strong message to Washington, D.C. and to the state capitals. The profession and the industry of pharmacy that I know is one that is all about innovation, and that should be empowered to help deliver the accessible, affordable, high-quality, patient-centric care that they are pursuing.

“In my view, pharmacy, researchers, manufacturers, and related industries have been in the improvement business since birth,” Giancamilli added. “And through healthy competition, appropriate collaboration, and always a focus on making peoples’ lives better, this trajectory of improvement has given us transformational reform.”

The opening business session Sunday also included the first of a series of tributes to Len DeMino, former NACDS VP pharmacy affairs. DeMino, who remains a consultant with the organization, honored with the UCB Leadership in Pharmacy Award in recognition of his two decades of service to NACDS, culminating a career in retail pharmacy that included a 33-year record of service to Peoples Drug Stores. UCB, Inc., which sponsored the award, made a $10,000 contribution in DeMino’s name to the NACDS Foundation.

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Asteres to debut new automated pharmacy kiosk at NACDS Pharmacy & Technology Conference

BY Alaric DeArment

SAN DIEGO A company that makes automated pharmacy kiosks plans to unveil its latest products at an upcoming conference.

Asteres, which makes the ScriptCenter kiosk, announced this week that it would debut ScriptCenter 24/7 Automated Pharmacy Services at the 2009 National Association of Chain Drug Stores Pharmacy & Technology Conference in Boston, which begins Saturday.

“To date, ScriptCenter has enabled retailers to reduce pharmacy hours and increase customer services,” Asteres CEO Mark de Bruin said in a statement. “The addition of 24/7 Automated Pharmacy Services will expand customer engagement opportunities and drive incremental store sales leveraging kiosk, online and cell technologies.”

The services include the Express Prescription Pickup, Prescription Drop Off Anytime, one-touch pickup for families, ScriptCenter.com and others.

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Sciele Pharma announces availability of head lice treatment

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK A new drug for treating head lice has become available from a subsidiary of a Japanese drug company.

Sciele Pharma, part of Shionogi, announced this week the availability of Ulesfia (benzyl alcohol lotion 5%). The medication kills head lice by asphyxiation without potential neurotoxic side effects, the company said.

Head lice infestation affects 6 to 12 million children between the ages of 3 and 12 every year. To breathe, head lice use breathing holes that close upon contact with most liquids, which allows them to go into suspended animation and survive for hours without respiration, but Ulesfia prevents them from closing their breathing holes, causing the insects to asphyxiate.

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