Magazine article Drug Topics

Tempered Optimism for 2013

Magazine article Drug Topics

Tempered Optimism for 2013

Article excerpt

Two thirds of pharmacists still hopeful about this year's business climate

Pharmacists are approaching 201 3 with tempered optimism as the economy seems to be slowly rebounding and consumer confidence is the best it has been since 2009. However, compared with last year, community pharmacists are not quite as confident that 2013 will outperform 2012 for sales volume and net profits. Health-system pharmacists, on the other hand, are more optimistic about 201 3 with expectations that their pharmacies will reach their financial goals and be able to contribute positively to net revenues.

These were some of the findings from Drug Topics' 2013 Business Outlook Survey, an annual survey of more than 600 community and health-system pharmacists that examines the current climate and future prospects. This year's survey was fielded for two weeks in October 2012.

Positive, negative factors

Community pharmacists ranked the top five factors that contributed positively to their businesses last year as follows (Figure 1):

* Major brand-name drugs going off patent

* Increase of electronic prescriptions

* Immunization certification

* Medicare Part D

* Healthcare reform

There was little difference compared with 201 1, although medication therapy management (MTM) made the list and healthcare reform did not.

In terms of the factors that negatively affected community pharmacists in 2012, the top ranking factor was mandatory mail-order programs, followed by lower reimbursements from third parties, $4 generics from competitors, the completed merger of Express Scripts Inc. and Medco Health Solutions, and healthcare reform (Figure 2).

Approximately three quarters of community pharmacists (73%) of the 436 pharmacists who responded to Drug Topics' survey expected a good, very good, or excellent business year in 2012. However, their expectations dropped for 2013 with approximately two-thirds (67%) predicting a good to excellent business climate (Figure 3). One third of community pharmacists expect sales to increase this year and one-third expect sales to remain the same. However, 17% expect sales in 2013 to decrease and 17% don't know what to expect. This is in sharp contrast to last year's survey in which 40% expected sales to increase, 32% expected sales to remain the same, 15% expected a dip in sales, and 13% did not know what to expect.

Only 20% of community pharmacists expect net profits to climb in 2013 compared to 25% last year. Approximately 31% expect net profits to remain steady in 2013 compared to 24% last year. Almost 32% expect net profits to go down in 2013, compared with 35% last year.

Medicare Part D impact

For community pharmacists, Medicare Part D, which has been in effect since January 1, 2006, was considered a positive factor by one quarter of survey respondents for 2012; yet it also ranked as a challenge in 201 3 by one -third of those surveyed. Obviously, more lower- and middle-income Medicare beneficiaries are able to have prescriptions filled, providing better and cheaper care for more seniors.

"This program has been instrumental in getting people to buy prescriptions they could not have otherwise afforded. This has lead to increased compliance," according to one survey respondent.

Some of the Medicare Part D plans offer limited formularies, so patients really need information about their coverage and the step therapy requirements, according to pharmacists who responded to our survey. In addition, the coverage gap, known as the donut hole, has continued to pose problems for many patients.

"Many seniors do not understand the [Medicare Part D] program and do not refill medications when they reach the donut hole," explained another survey respondent.

Pharmacists will need to work with patients to ensure that they remain compliant with their drug regimen. The Affordable Care Act of 2010 provided a 50% discount in 2012 on brand-name drugs for beneficiaries who reached the donut hole of $2,930 to $4,700. …

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