Magazine article Drug Topics

Rosy Recap

Magazine article Drug Topics

Rosy Recap

Article excerpt

Anyone associated with the prescription drug industry was a little reluctant to say good-bye to 1997, if estimates by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores are any indication.

NACDS president/CEO Ron Ziegler and chairman Thomas M. Ryan, president/CEO of CVS Pharmacy, painted a rosy sales picture for the year just ended. They also touched on pharmacist workload, reimbursement for cognitive services, and several other issues when they met the press last month in New York City.

Ziegler called 1997 "a breakthrough year for the traditional chain drugstore format," projecting that Rxs dispensed by chains would reach the one billion mark for the first time ever. NACDS projected that retail Rx drugs would reach a record $89 billion in 1997, an increase of 15% over 1996 sales. Chain-operated pharmacies should account for more than $56 billion, or approximately 63% of that total.

It was also a good year for over-thecounter medications, as sales in chain pharmacies were expected to grow to $26 billion, up from $24 billion in 1996.

Ryan said that the ongoing increases are no mystery, given the evolution of the health-care industry. "It's happening simply because prescriptions and pharmaceutical care is costeffective. When you look at changing demographics, you look at new drug discoveries, and you look at the growth of managed care, you will see this trend continue," he predicted. "Our challenge here is to help meet this demand."

Questioned on whether the burden of meeting that demand is being placed on the shoulders of pharmacists who may be overworked, Ryan admitted that pharmacist workload is "one of the most pressing issues we have as an industry." And he said that learning to use new technologies to full advantage will be a major step toward easing the burden. The ultimate goal, he said, should be "to free up the pharmacists so they can be more effective day to day with patients."

Ziegler agreed, adding, "We're going through a transition period where efficiencies and technology ... have to move along to accommodate this change so the pharmacists can get to a point where they're supervising the dispensing and filling of prescriptions at the community pharmacy level."

Ryan and Ziegler said the issue needs to be a priority in ongoing dialogue between NACDS and state pharmacy boards. What should not be a priority, they said, is pharmacist reimbursement for nondispensing duties, in sharp contrast to views expressed in the independent pharmacy segment.

"You have to look at the product and the pharmaceutical services as one piece, and, hopefully, if you can bring that to bear on managed care administrators so they understand that it will lower their overall costs, then cognitive services shouldn't be carved out for payment," Ryan said. …

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