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NACDS RESEARCH EFFORTS FOCUSING ON Rx MARKETPLACE ECONOMICS AND PHARMACY EDUCATION; DIRECT THIRD-PARTY BILLING DESIRED BY PHARMACIES, HART SURVEY FINDS

Executive Summary

The National Association of Chain Drugs has commissioned two new studies -- one on retail prescription drug marketplace economics and the other on pharmacy education and manpower needs -- as part of its heightened emphasis on research capabilities. NACDS announced the studies at its annual meeting. The first study, slated to get underway in June and run one year, is planned as a broad look at the interplay of prescription drug marketplace issues, such as manufacturer rebates, market segmentation, and the states' role and reaction to changing pharmacy pricing and reimbursement programs, according to NACDS Director-Research and Information Kurt Proctor, PhD. The second study, to be conducted by SRI, will examine community pharmacy education and workforce needs. The study will look at the "realities" of the future role of pharmacists in light of the trend toward a greater service orientation and how that service role is affected by such issues as increased pharmacy automation, Proctor said. The SRI study is expected to be completed in September. NACDS also released the results of two public opinion surveys at the annual meeting. The first, conducted by the Gallup Organization, looked at the public's perceptions of pharmacists and pharmacies. The second, by the Washington, D.C. firm Peter D. Hart Associates, looked at industry challenges in the 1990s. The Gallup survey of 1,012 telephone interviews, conducted from Feb. 12-16, found that the public overwhelmingly views pharmacists as a highly knowledgeable source of accurate information on medications and OTCs, and an element in health care delivery that does not contribute to rising costs. The poll found that some 60% of Americans have asked a pharmacist for advice about a prescription drug and 57% about an OTC medication in the last year. Of those seeking advice, about 83% said they were "very" or "highly satisfied" with the advice they received, according to the poll. However, a majority (51%) said they were not willing to pay a pharmacist a consultation fee for the advice. About 14% were willing to pay a fee and 35% "did not express a strong aversion." Among those latter two groups, $5 was the average fee they might be willing to pay. As for contributing to the rising cost of health care, 56% of those polled said they felt the pharmacist's advice had helped them save money. The poll found that pharmacists were ranked well below other groups, such as drug manufacturers (71%), insurance companies (62%), hospitals (61%) and government (52%), as being "greatly responsible" for the increase in prescription drug costs. About one-quarter of those polled held pharmacists responsible for the rising costs. The Hart survey, among other things, looked at services retail drug chains might offer in the future. Direct third-party billing was one of the top four of 10 potential services as ranked by the survey respondents. In the survey, conducted March 6-12 via 1,000 telephone interviews, 45% of those responding said they found the idea of direct third-party billing for prescription drugs "extremely or very appealing" as a way to eliminate their filling out insurance forms.
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