Pharma and pharmacy groups build consensus on drug tracking, disposal and Internet pharmacies

National Conference of Pharmaceutical Organizations (NCPO) seeks national standards

At last month’s annual meeting of the National Conference of Pharmaceutical Organizations (NCPO), member organizations representing manufacturers, distributors, pharmacies and pharmacists reached consensus on a number of issues, but the wording of their summary document is clear only that pharma supply chain security is important, and that the organizations involved will “continue to work together to educate policy makers . . . and seek appropriate policy solutions.” In other words, if a certain policy is legislated, the group would like to see that policy have consensus elements.

Specifically, NCPO recommends that if legislation on a national, uniform electronic track-and-trace system is adopted, that it be based on internationally harmonized standards and can be implemented in a “scalable and cost-effective manner, and be based on appropriate pilot studies and other preparatory work.” Given that track-and-trace systems have been in use on a limited scale as well as piloted numerous times over the past decade, this language is faint praise indeed.

The group is less specific on recommendations for dealing with illegal internet pharmacies, but it does recognize it as a growing problem and agrees that consumer education on validated pharmacy sites is desirable. But, notwithstanding the fact that the National Assn. of Boards of Pharmacies (NABP)—an NCPO member—has a well organized VIPPS (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites) program, NCPO did not specify use of that service, leaving the door open for other purported validation organizations.

(Coincidentally, NABP updated its own analysis of the Internet pharmacy scene during January: Of the 10,275 websites selling prescription medications that the NABP has reviewed since the program’s inception, 96.7% of them were “not recommended” and found to be operating out of compliance with state or federal laws and/or NABP patient safety and pharmacy practice standards. Meanwhile, 2.5% were identified as potentially legitimate, and only 0.78% were verified as legitimate operations. The “Not Recommended” list grew 18% from 2011 to 2012, “clearly reflective of an ongoing problem,” according to the NABP.)

Finally, while noting that Alameda County in California is going forward with a mandated unused-medicine take-back program (scheduled to go into effect this summer), to be managed (and paid for) by the pharma industry, NCPO notes that this responsibility "more properly rest(s) with municipal governments," and seeks to ensure that take-back programs don't turn into a diversion opportunity.

According to the NCPO, this is the first time in the group’s 100-year history that the leaders agreed to address important issues in the pharmaceutical supply chain. In a document outlining the recommendations, The NCPO comprises pharmacy organizations and pharmaceutical manufacturing and distribution, including PhRMA, BIO, GPhA, HDMA, NACDS, NCPA and the American Pharmacists Assn. (APA).