Big Three wholesalers round out their independent-pharmacy meetings with new business announcements

Cardinal Health's Retail Business Conference, ABC's ThoughtSpot and McKesson's IdeaShare meetings gather up independent pharmacist

Some local pharmacies across the country might have been a little quieter the past couple weeks, as Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen held their annual tradeshows for these customers; McKesson’s meeting was held earlier in the summer.

At its Retail Business Conference, Cardinal launched a “Specialty Pharmacy Alliance” to engage with independents more closely in this rapidly growing part of the market. In practice, Cardinal will be leveraging its OncoSource Rx specialty pharmacy to back up the local pharmacist with assistance in prior authorizations, access to limited-distribution drugs, and patient education and support. The announcement makes no mention of Cardinal’s Specialty Health Solutions division, so that appears to be a parallel rather than intersecting part of Cardinal’s business.

Cardinal also announced the availability of disposable medical products and durable medical equipment through its earlier acquisition of Independence Medical, a distributor. And it announced s scholarship program for six universities that support independent pharmacy.

AmerisourceBergen unveiled a “Collaborative Practice Coverage” program, in effect in 19 states, that enables pharmacists to dispense and administer vaccinations to patients without the direct involvement of a physician. ABC’s Good Neighbor Pharmacy Provider Network (GPNPPN) has arranged for a physician’s signoff in those states so that a prescription need not be written.

“Patient access to vaccinations remains a challenge, but as America’s most accessible healthcare professionals, pharmacists are ideally positioned to address this public health need,” said Chuck Reed, a group VP. “However, many independent community pharmacists have experienced difficulty finding a physician willing to engage in collaborative practices. Our Collaborative Practice Coverage is designed to help these pharmacies attract and retain patients, increase their revenue and remain competitive.” About 100 pharmacies have already signed up for the GNPPN program.

ABC also touted the benefits of its Good Neighbor Pharmacy Business Coaching program, provides a local business advisor to network pharmacies across the country to assist in their business planning. Participants gained a 5% increase in sales per employee, increased annual inventory turns by 1.4, and had reduced business claims against them.

Earlier in the summer, McKesson showed its support of independent pharmacy with enhanced marketing support in the form of a marketing “hub” that replaces its Marketing Tool Kit, more flexibility in how matching marketing funds can be allocated, and local marketing coordinators to help pharmacists execute their marketing plans. The Marketing Tool Kit has included templates for newspaper, radio and TV advertising and social media tools, among others. A new mobile app was previewed that will allow pharmacists to provide closer communication to their customers, including refill requests, reminders and in-store promotions. And there is additional support for medication therapy management, behavioral coaching and related services that position individual pharmacies well with the performance-based programs of healthcare providers.

Each of the Big Three wholesalers maintain active support programs for their networks of independent pharmacies: AmerisourceBergen has the Good Neighbor Pharmacy franchise; and Cardinal supports both independent pharmacies and owns the Medicine Shoppe franchise. All of them (as well as other wholesalers) compete to win more market share from the independent pharmacy channel, which represented (according to IMS Health data) 16% of the retail pharmaceutical market in 2012.