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News October 19, 2012

Pharmacy role continues to evolve and expand

Medical treatment advances, competitive forces, packaging, and consumer interaction spark change in the role of the pharmacy.

In the 1980s, my pharmacist owned a small store across the street from the rural train station I parked at to commute to and from my job in Chicago. Despite his physical handicaps, he kept up on the latest medication changes, regulations, and seemingly knew everything about the hardware, plumbing, and retail products he sold from his modest business. He was a great guy who was eager to help and he made it a joy to stop in and patronize his shop.

More recently I've purchased mail-order scripts from Walmart, and now tend to rely on Walgreens for their convenience and nationwide service, which can come in handy on a travel assignment.

In the past few years, Healthcare Packaging has reported on changes in packaging—particularly in the area of compliance-prompting packaging—that no longer require the pharmacist to count and fill prescriptions. One of the goals with such packaging is to allow pharmacists to interact with patients and answer their questions or concerns.

As biologic and combination product therapies continue to evolve, so too will the role of the pharmacist. Earlier this year in a Drug Channels report, “7 Reasons Why Specialty Drug Dispensing Will Boom,” author Adam J. Fein, Ph.D., said, “As I see it, the projected growth in specialty drug dispensing is encouraging market entry, drawing investment capital into the pharmacy industry, and increasing competition for specialty pharmacy services. Dispensing of specialty pharmaceuticals will become less concentrated as regional chains and independents penetrate this market. Manufacturers will face enormous pressure to broaden limited distribution networks.”

The above site provides greater details, but here are the seven pharmacy-centric points Fein noted in the article:

• “Independent retail community pharmacies are organizing into collaborative networks to penetrate the specialty market.

• “Regional and national chains are launching 'specialty at retail' programs.

• “Private, independent specialty pharmacies are growing fast.

• “Retail pharmacies are leveraging open government payer networks.

• “Accreditation is lowering barriers to entry.

• “Private-equity firms are targeting specialty pharmacy for growth capital investments.

• “The specialty pharmacy channel is gaining buy-and-bill volume from the physician office market.”

Another interesting example of change in the pharmacy market was announced in mid-October when Medicine-On-Time announced a new Web site that aims to connect consumers taking multiple medications to pharmacists who offer customized prescription packaging.

“Our goal is to drive retail customers into local community pharmacists with the expectation of paying for customized prescription packaging,” says Ian Salditch, Medicine-On-Time's CEO. “This Web site helps to create revenue opportunities for pharmacists, while providing a valuable service to consumers.”

It will be fascinating to watch the developments unfold in this area in the coming years, and to observe what role packaging will play in this evolution. If you're a manufacturer or a packaging material supplier, this might be a good time to try to gain packaging and labeling input from pharmacies and their associations/organizations.

I wonder what my late pharmacist friend would have thought of these developments?

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