Canada's largest food/drug chains return to national Rx group
TORONTO — Loblaw Cos., which as Canada’s largest food and drug retailer operates the Shoppers Drug Mart and Loblaw chains, is rejoining the Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada, the nation’s retail pharmacy trade group.
Neighbourhood Pharmacies said Friday that Loblaw/Shoppers Drug Mart is returning to the association’s membership in time for one of the group’s marquee events, the 2016 Executive Summit, scheduled for Oct. 27 and 28 at the Omni King Edward Hotel in Toronto.
“Loblaw Cos./Shoppers Drug Mart rejoining Neighbourhood Pharmacies is an important recognition of the benefits of association membership, our strategic plan and the work under way to innovate the pharmacy reimbursement model with emphasis on patient health outcomes,” Neighbourhood Pharmacies chief executive officer Justin Bates said in a statement. “The association is focused on building success with a strong and diverse membership base, industry collaboration and the development of evidence-based public policy solutions for all levels of governments, the private insurance sector and Canadian patients, who rely on the highest-quality care in our neighbourhood pharmacies.”
The return of Shoppers Drug Mart and Loblaw adds more than 1,700 drug store and supermarket pharmacies nationwide to the approximately 6,500 chain, banner and franchise, supermarket and mass merchant pharmacies that Neighbourhood Pharmacies currently represents.
“We are committed to supporting our pharmacists in providing the best possible care for their patients. A vital component of this commitment is working with and helping to bring together pharmacy stakeholders that are focused on the same objectives,” stated Jeff Leger, executive vice president of pharmacy and health care at Shoppers Drug Mart.
“Our industry is steadily and successfully expanding our focus beyond just providing prescription medications to providing Canadians with comprehensive patient-centered pharmacy services that help improve health and well-being. With an ongoing requirement to address both professional and business issues, there is a need for aligned support for all the Canadian pharmacy associations to advocate on behalf of our sector,” Leger added.
News of the departure of Shoppers Drug Mart from the Canadian Association of Chain Drug Stores (CACDS), Neighbourhood Pharmacies’ predecessor organization, emerged in the summer of 2014. At the time, a spokeswoman for Shoppers Drug Mart said the chain was shifting its focus to provincial and territorial pharmacy associations and the Canadian Pharmacists Association. In late March of that year, Loblaw had finalized its acquisition of Shoppers Drug Mart, which became a separate operating division within the company.
CACDS announced its name change to the Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada in mid-September 2014. The group said at the time that the new identity gives a greater voice to the neighborhood drug store amid the pharmacy profession’s transition into a broader provider of health services.
“We are pleased to welcome back Loblaw Cos./Shoppers Drug Mart as a member of Neighbourhood Pharmacies,” commented Vivek Sood, chair of Neighbourhood Pharmacies and general manager of the Sobeys National Pharmacy Group, which includes Sobeys supermarket pharmacies and Lawtons Drugs. “This strengthens the association’s platform by demonstrating our commitment to work with all stakeholders to advance patient care access and opportunities for a sustainable health care system.”
Canada’s public health care system is in a state of flux. Earlier this week, talks over a new Health Accord became tense as federal and provincial health ministers debated the federal government’s plan to halve annual increases for the Canada Health Transfer — the amount of money provinces receive each year to pay for health care — from 6% to 3%.
In recent years, Canadian pharmacy operators have been grappling with sharply reduced reimbursement rates for pharmaceuticals. At the same time, however, federal and provincial governments have increasingly recognized the potential of pharmacists to help improve patient health outcomes and lower medical costs by enabling them to provide a wider range of health services — notably immunizations — and be compensated for that care.