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Executive Summary

The National Wholesale Druggists' Association plans to host a conference next year to identify common approaches to issues facing pharmacy and pharmaceutical organizations. Addressing an Oct. 29 session of NWDA's annual meeting in Palm Springs, Calif., Becton Dickinson Consumer Products President Charles Baer said the association has pledged $10,000 for a planning committee for the event. He said the conference is being planned for next spring. For the past year, Baer has chaired NWDA's Associate Member Advisory Committee, which developed the recommendation for the conference. The committee is made up primarily of manufacturers. The conference approach was developed to help tackle the "question of how we, as an industry, address the broad scale issues facing pharmaceutical care in the U.S.," Baer told the NWDA gathering. The conference is seen as "encouraging input and participation from all associations affected" by those issues. The associate member group has recommended that a planning committee "of all the various segments of the pharmaceutical industry be appointed during the next few weeks to identify the objectives, the agenda, and the timing of this conference." Jim Doluisio, PhD, University of Texas/Austin pharmacy school dean, has been working with NWDA to put the project together. Baer said that the objective of the conference is to help pharmacy and pharmaceutical groups agree on a "common vision" that can be communicated to the public and government. Developing areas of agreement on ways to enhance health care delivery could also help avoid more regulatory solutions, he suggested. In addition to the cross-association forum on pharmacy-related issues, the NWDA Associate Member Advisory Committee also decided to focus on ways to strengthen community pharmacies. The committee "developed a consensus that the pharmaceutical industry and the health care of the U.S. patient would be best served if a broad base of retail pharmacy outlets continued to be available within the U.S.," Baer said. To this end, the group met with NARD Exec VP Charles West in July. The associate members committee is recommending that NWDA "work closely" with the independent retail pharmacy association in a number of areas, including "assisting pharmacy schools in recruiting students interested in community pharmacies and assisting the pharmacy schools in having business training in their curriculums," Baer said. In addition, the advisory group recommends that the two associations "work together to enable the community pharmacy to build its front-end business; we recommend market research training to develop the community pharmacist's awareness of customers' needs," Baer continued. "Initiative by individual wholesalers to alert NARD members to the many merchandising and promotional programs already available" from wholesalers and manufacturers "would also be of great value." Other efforts recommended for support include management training for pharmacists and helping community pharmacies gain access to the computer and electronic technologies being developed for pharmacy. Baer said NWDA's board has approved these recommendations, although he did not outline a specific plan for implementation. A separate NWDA effort under way for the past year is the "breakthrough" project -- an organized effort to brainstorm about the elements of a drug distribution system if NWDA could redesign it from scratch. The association has contracted with the McLean, Va. consulting firm Charles E. Smith & Associates to advise on the project. NWDA President Charles Trefrey said the "strategic intent" of the "breakthrough" project is to "be so good at what we do that no one else will do it." NWDA members participating in the project are organized into six groups addressing issue areas or goals, including: inter-organization systems; the objective of 100% distribution through wholesalers; manufacturer relations; just-in-time inventory and distribution systems; a feasibility study of new models for drug distribution; and the completion of the project itself. For example, the manufacturer relations group, headed by new NWDA Chairman Joseph Polastri, McKesson Drug and Health Care Group president, plans to visit 20 pharmaceutical manufacturers by this May to discuss drug distribution and wholesaling, and is considering additional contacts with biotechnology firms. The inter-organizational systems group, headed by outgoing NWDA Chairman Erwin Dohmen, chairman and CEO of F. Dohmen Co., is looking at such issues as electronic data interchange and Drug Enforcement Administration registrant verification and industry monitoring of suspicious orders. The group studying the feasibility of a new model of wholesale distribution had divided its review into cash flow, information flow, and product flow. In the information area, for example, the group has been working with the American Medical Association to assess the extent to which physicians use computers and their receptiveness to the idea of using a computer network for transmitting prescriptions. This group is headed by Albers Drug President John Walz. On a more immediate issue, Trefrey urged wholesalers to become involved in state implementation of regulations related to the drug diversion law. He noted that the Prescription Drug Marketing Act requires wholesalers, and manufacturers to the extent that they are involved in product distribution, to have a state license by Sept. 14, 1992. That deadline will provide "barely enough" time in some states, especially those states with legislatures that must first authorize a new licensing program. Trefrey recommended particular attention to ensuring that state proposals meet FDA's criteria for an adequate licensing program.

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