Independent pharmacists helped trim health care costs by dispensing a record high number of generic drugs in 2011 and reported more frequent interaction with doctors to promote generic drug utilization, according to the National Community Pharmacists Association's 2012 NCPA Digest.


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NCPA: Independents driving generic drug use

October 15th, 2012

SAN DIEGO – Independent pharmacists helped trim health care costs by dispensing a record high number of generic drugs in 2011 and reported more frequent interaction with doctors to promote generic drug utilization, according to the National Community Pharmacists Association's 2012 NCPA Digest.

The association unveiled findings from the Cardinal Health-sponsored digest, a broad survey of the state of independent community pharmacies, on Monday at NCPA's 114th Annual Convention and Trade Exposition.

According to the NCPA Digest, independent pharmacies last year raised their generic dispensing rate to 76% from 72% in 2010. What's more, 50% of these pharmacies now have a formal program to boost medication adherence, such as refill synchronization programs like Simplify My Meds.

"Independent community pharmacists shattered their previous record in frequency of dispensing lower-cost generic drugs by raising the bar even higher in 2011," NCPA chief executive officer B. Douglas Hoey said in a statement. "In addition, these small-business health care providers are counseling patients face-to-face on the proper use of and adherence to their prescription drug regimen."

The survey also found that independent pharmacists consulted with doctors about prescription drug therapy 7.9 times per day on average, which NCPA said marked a significant increase over prior years. Pharmacist recommendations to physicians were accepted 83% of the time, typically relating to the suggestion of generics.

"Community pharmacists are working more frequently with physicians and continue to play a vital role in improving health outcomes while reducing costs," Hoey explained. "First, the digest indicates that community pharmacists reached new highs in promoting the appropriate use of lower-cost generic drugs. Second, community pharmacists are increasingly offering physicians more recommendations for prescription drug therapy, including generic substitutes, and these suggestions continue to be accepted by doctors at a very high rate. In addition, these community pillars are disproportionately located in underserved rural and inner-city locations, where they provide a wide range of essential health services. These include immunizations, durable medical equipment, same-day home delivery and formulating customized medication treatments for individual patient needs."

According to the digest, the total number of independent pharmacies inched up from 23,064in 2010  to 23,106 jn 2011 but remains well below 2000 levels, when they totaled 24,861.

As in the previous digest, 92% of independent drug stores' revenue in 2011 came from the sale of prescription drugs. Government-sponsored programs accounted for the largest share (49%) of their prescriptions.

The pretax net profit margin for the average independent pharmacy fell to 2.9%, its lowest level in five years. Similarly, the number of independents operating at a net financial loss rose slightly and continues to account for roughly one in four of these pharmacies.

NCPA noted that to help stay competitive, independent pharmacies found efficiencies to reduce their dispensing costs slightly, from $12.44 to $12.19 per prescription.

The most common niche services offered by independents include same-day home delivery (82% of pharmacies offering it, most providing it free); compounding (66%); durable medical equipment (65%); and immunizations (60%).

R.J. Padgitt, director of retail independent marketing at Cardinal Health, noted that the NCPA Digest provides information that helps independent pharmacy owners better understand the industry landscape and baseline their operations among their peers.

"Our desire is that retail independent pharmacy owners not only analyze the data but more importantly, they take action," Padgitt stated. "In today's environment, it is becoming more important for retail independent pharmacies to complement all of the services they are known for with those that were traditionally offered by other institutions. Our hope is the NCPA Digest is another tool that encourages retail independent pharmacy owners to think differently about their business."

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