Giancamilli helps move community Rx ahead

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When Andy Giancamilli steps down as chief executive officer of Katz Group Canada at the beginning of February, his move to an advisory role at the company will mark the end of a career in community pharmacy that exemplifies what the profession means for the people who practice it and the patients it serves.

For the 61-year-old Giancamilli, pharmacy opened doors to the top echelon of mass market retailing. After attending pharmacy school at Wayne State University he worked at an independent drug store in Michigan for two years, then he signed on as a pharmacist at Perry Drug Stores. During a 20-year career at the regional drug chain, he moved up the ladder steadily, and, two years before the company was sold to Rite Aid Corp. in 1995, he was named president and chief operating officer.

Giancamilli then moved to Kmart Corp., at the time the nation’s second-biggest retailer, as vice president of pharmacy and related merchandise categories. His ability again quickly won notice and he was appointed president of the discounter in 1997, a post that he held for three years.

After a brief break Giancamilli went to work for Canadian Tire, another big-box retailer, where he handled dealer relations and renegotiated the company’s agreement with franchisees. In 2003 he joined Katz.

As chief executive officer of the second-largest drug store operator in Canada and the fifth-largest in North America, Giancamilli was in a position to exert a strong influence on the evolution of the profession that had done so much for him.

Years of experience left Giancamilli with a clear picture of the direction community pharmacy needed to take.

“We must evolve into a more service-oriented sector, as opposed to a commodity-based one,” he said in late 2010. “If we continue to be a commodity-based industry, we’re not going to survive. Someone else is always going to figure out how to do it better, quicker, cheaper, faster.

“What we provide that no one else can match is service. Our pharmacists are the medication experts. And they have the ability to do more for the patient in terms of counseling and working with other members of the health care team to produce the best possible patient outcomes.”

During his eight years at Katz Giancamilli has been relentless in pursuit of that vision. The company’s “pharmacy first” orientation is reflected in its store formats — most notably the still experimental Rexall Pharma Plus Healthy Living concept — and the expanding array of health care services provided by its professionals. While substantial progress has been made, it has not come easily, particularly in light of the reimbursement cuts recently enacted by many provinces.

As always, Giancamilli is developing ways to meet the new realities.

“One of the things that has happened here in Canada that has been beneficial to us is that, while the provinces have cut reimbursements basically on generics, they have also increased the level of funding when it comes to other services,” he notes. “Some of the provinces are funding consultation of patients. One province is allowing pharmacists to prescribe certain classes of drugs and get reimbursed for that. Two provinces allow pharmacists to give immunizations. Necessary interventions by pharmacists with physicians and other health care providers are also paid for in some provinces. Services other than dispensing are being funded today. That’s helping ease the pain caused by the cuts in ­reimbursements.

“That’s the evolution that we want to see, but we have to manage through the transition. We feel that Katz is in a good position. We have planned for the future. We are ready to offset some of these cuts through new services and also through pretty good expense controls that we’ve instituted. We will flourish because we prepared for this.”

Flourishing through preparation is something that the rigorous training in pharmacy school equipped Giancamilli to do. “It teaches you to think clearly and gives you a good foundation that you can do just about anything with,” he says. During the course of his career Giancamilli has used that discipline to move the companies he worked for and the profession as a whole forward.


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