Inside This Issue - Opinion
Retail pharmacy gathers some momentum
August 27th, 2012
Signs that the value of community pharmacy is gaining more widespread recognition are emerging with increasing frequency.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius added her voice to the chorus earlier this month. Speaking at a CVS/pharmacy outlet in Jacksonville, Fla., she announced partnerships with five pharmacy operators intended to highlight new benefits for Medicare recipients under the Affordable Care Act.
CVS Caremark, Walgreens, Walmart, Sam’s Club and Thrifty White will call their customers’ attention to such services as free annual wellness visits and a variety of health screenings, as well as savings on prescription drugs when Medicare patients fall into the so-called doughnut hole.
By tapping the resources of the five retailers, which between them operate some 20,000 pharmacies in all 50 states, HHS is hoping for a repeat of the industry’s performance during initial implementation of the Medicare drug benefit. Retail pharmacies took on the vital role of helping senior citizens understand the program and select a plan that was appropriate for their needs. With the new program, the government is acknowledging the emergence of pharmacies as true community heath centers, whose importance will only grow.
Another tacit signal of the pharmacy sector’s central role is provided by the settlement between Walgreens and Express Scripts Inc., the nation’s biggest pharmacy benefits manger. Disagreement over contract renewal terms had locked the drug chain out of the ESI network since January 1. The dispute, which was expected to draw on at least through the 2013 PBM selling season, was abruptly settled last month in a manner that Walgreens president and chief executive officer Greg Wasson says “works for both parities and is consistent with our principles.”
Evidence of another kind supporting retail pharmacy’s ability to have a positive impact is provided in a study published earlier this month in Health Affairs. The research found that better adherence to diabetes medications could produce almost $5 billion in annual savings. Drug compliance is one of pharmacy’s sweet spots.
The industry still has a long way to go to secure acknowledgement — and remuneration — for everything its does, but pharmacy operators should be pleased that the momentum seems to be going in their direction.