The Drug Channels blog delivers timely analysis and provocative opinions on pharmaceutical economics and the drug distribution system. It is written by Adam J. Fein, Ph.D., one of the country's foremost experts on pharmaceutical economics and channel strategy. Learn more...

Thursday, April 24, 2014

2013’s Top 50 Retail Pharmacies, according to Drug Store News

Drug Store News (DSN) just released it latest rundown of the top pharmacy retailers in the powerfully-titled POWERx Top 50 list. Click here for for this free download.

I highly recommend the POWERx list to anyone who competes with, sell to, or interacts with retail pharmacies. This useful resource provides brief profiles of all 50 organizations. These range from CVS (#1, with $45.6 billion in prescription sales) to Ritzman Pharmacy (#50, with $58 million in prescription sales). Consistent with last year’s list, the largest chain drugstore dispenses nearly 800 times as much as the 50th largest drugstore.

Below, I show DSN's top 20 largest pharmacies and contrast the list with our 2013 list of top retail, mail, and specialty pharmacies.

As a bonus, we also have an exclusive, must-see video of Rob Eder and the Drug Store News dancers.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

For 2013, Pharmacist Salaries Rise Yet Again For This Family-Friendly Occupation

Time for our exclusive annual analysis of pharmacist salaries, based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) latest 2013 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES).

Once again, pharmacist salaries grew faster than overall U.S. wages. The highlights:
  • In 2013, the average gross salary for a pharmacist at a retail, mail, and specialty pharmacy was $117,500—up 1.1% from 2012.
  • Average salaries for pharmacists at mass merchants climbed above $121,000.
  • Of the 820 detailed occupations that BLS lists in the OES survey, the “pharmacist” classification ranked 29th in compensation.
  • Retail, mail, and specialty pharmacists’ salaries are 57% higher than the average healthcare figure.
Details below. I also highlight a neat paper that analyzes how the growth of national chains turned pharmacy into a family-friendly, female-majority profession with a very small gender wage gap. It's a new twist on how free-market industry evolution can lead to positive social outcomes.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Pharmaceutical Wholesalers: Business Strategies and Financial Economics

Drug Channels Institute (DCI) is pleased to announce the release of our updated Pharmaceutical Wholesalers: Business Strategies and Financial Economics e-learning module. Click here to view an excerpt of this module.

This e-learning module offers a thorough, interactive grounding in important topics related to the wholesale industry, including: business services, customer relationships, financial economics, and more. It will help:
  • Account reps and field teams grasp important, easily-digestible industry concepts for their key accounts
  • Internal teams better understand their customers and channels
  • Anyone who wants to master the economics of the U.S. pharmaceutical wholesale industry
If you are a qualified potential buyer, you can review the complete module by contacting Paula Fein (, VP of Business Development. You can also set up a meeting with Paula (pictured at right) at the Armada Specialty Pharmacy Summit. #ArmadaSRx14

Click here to view the full description of Pharmaceutical Wholesalers: Business Strategies and Financial Economics.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Download the Armada Specialty Pharmacy Summit & Expo App

Below is a message from our friends at Armada, who developed a cool smartphone app for the upcoming Armada Specialty Pharmacy Summit & Expo.

After using the app for a few days, I can personally recommend it to everyone who is attending. I'm particularly impressed with the ability to search and sort the entire attendee list. Kudos to Armada for helping to maximize the Summit's networking value. Be sure to download this free app before arriving in Las Vegas. Links below.

P.S. If you've signed up for the conference, then your basic profile already exists. Log in to add your photo and contact info.

Get Connected and Download the Armada Specialty Pharmacy Summit & Expo App!

The 10th Annual Armada Specialty Pharmacy Summit & Expo will be held on May 5-9, 2014, at The Wynn in Las Vegas. This annual health care meeting is the industry’s largest gathering of specialty pharmacy stakeholders and related organizations. Thousands of attendees representing over 700 industry companies and organizations are expected. They will gather together to learn how to effectively contract and partner within this segment, manage the specialty spend, and navigate the evolving health care landscape for the specialty patient.

This year, Armada is debuting a new mobile and web app for the Summit, which will serve as a tool to allow all attendees to maximize their networking opportunities before, during, and after the meeting. The app is available for download on iTunes at and on Google Play at

"We are thrilled to unveil our brand new mobile app in 2014. This dynamic tool will create new opportunities for personalization, connection, and engagement during the meeting," noted Randi Hernandez, senior communications manager, Armada Health Care. "App users can now easily access the meeting attendee list, view speaker slide decks and handouts, and connect with colleagues, all with the swipe of a fingertip."

The mobile app will help conference participants sort through details about fellow attendees (including company and title), send messages, request meetings with colleagues, and personalize event schedules. The app also contains a “Chatter” section, which features attendee comments and displays Tweets related to the Summit.

"With the help of the mobile app, networking connections can be proactive and purposeful, rather than fortuitous," commented Robert Irene, RPh, co-founder and president, Armada Health Care. "Our adoption of this type of technology is important, as we believe these tools can serve as powerful engagement platforms during a conference of this size. Attendees are coming to expect mobile apps at events in addition to printed programs, and we are meeting the demand by helping participants maximize their opportunities for increased engagement and efficiency."

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Inside Specialty Drug Dispensing at Physician Practices

As I discuss in Chapter 8 of the 2013-14 Economic Report on Retail, Mail, and Specialty Pharmacies, the growth in oral oncology products is encouraging physicians to dispense these products from offices and clinics. These practice-affiliated pharmacies act as “closed door” pharmacies by dispensing only to the practice’s patients.

For an insider’s perspective, check out a great video interview (below) with Ray Bailey, PharmD, Pharmacy Director for Florida Cancer Specialists (FCS), one of the largest U.S. oncology/hematology practices.

FCS operates Rx to Go, a specialty pharmacy that acts a central fill service for FCS’s 81 locations. Rx to Go dispenses more than 3,000 prescriptions per month. Most are oral oncolytics. (Note that Dr. Bailey misspoke on the video and said "3,000 prescriptions per day.")

As this video illustrates, manufacturers developing a specialty channel strategy should consider practice-affiliated pharmacies. It also highlights why Express Scripts partnered with Raintree Oncology Services.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Walgreens Faces Post-Alliance Boots Inversion Pressure

According to yesterday’s Financial Times, powerful investors are actively lobbying Walgreens to move its headquarters to Europe. Here’s the story: Walgreens urged to leave US to gain tax benefit.

Yes, this is the infamous “tax inversion” strategy that I analyzed in last month's Inversion Uncertainty: Is Alliance Boots Really Acquiring Walgreens?

Walgreens responded to the news story with a surprisingly vague statement about its plans. Hmmm. Is management buying time, or seriously considering a move? Read on for details over controversy.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Oncology Management

At IIR's Oncology Management Summit, taking place July 21-23 in Philadelphia, you will walk away with solutions to the most critical issues within the cancer care value chain: excessive costs, access to affordable care, incorporating new technology, and meeting new value and quality standards for patient-centered care. Pioneers in oncology share never-before-heard research and perspectives to drive your programs and patient care strategies forward.

Register now and save 15%! Use code: XP1914DRUG

2014 Event highlights include:
  • NEW! Delve into the role of specialty pharmacy in oncology during the pre-conference summit
  • NEW! Sessions on the impact of Big Data as it transforms cancer care management
  • More than 40 dedicated sessions with a focus on economic and cost issues, quality and value of patient access & care, and data and technology driven strategies
Don't miss out on this unprecedented opportunity for to connect with ALL KEY STAKEHOLDERS across the cancer care continuum.


Friday, April 11, 2014

Weighing Express Scripts’ Drug Trend Forecast Errors, Sovaldi Pricing, and PBMs’ Pricing Control

Yesterday, I focused on Untangling Express Scripts’ 2013 Drug Trend Report. Today, I explore the report’s unexpectedly large forecast errors for traditional drug trend, and what they mean for PBMs’ formulary management.

As I document below, 2013 drug trend was positive and higher than Express Scripts’ forecast for three major traditional drug therapy classes, none of which had a major generic launch. Express Scripts blamed the higher-than-expected trend on manufacturers’ drug pricing.

To coincide with its new drug trend report, Express Scripts launched an attack on drug prices, focusing on Gilead’s hepatitis C pill Solvaldi (of course). Dr. Steven Miller, Express Scripts’ chief medical officer, even implied that Sovaldi could “lose all its market share” when competitors launch. (Full quote below.) No surprise if you had read Express Scripts Plans a Specialty Drug Price War last December.

Given Express Scripts’ difficulty in projecting traditional drug trend for therapy classes without new generic launches, the tough talk may be premature. Read on and see if you agree.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Untangling Express Scripts’ 2013 Drug Trend Report

Express Scripts has just released the latest edition of its long-running Drug Trend Report. Start with the Table of Contents. Be forewarned: the report is now a nearly unusable series of more than 100 web pages. (See my tech-whining below.)

If you look hard enough, you’ll find valuable insights into our changing industry, along with data on 2013’s drug trend (the change in prescription drug expenditures of a third-party payer). Here are my highlights:
  • Drug trend for traditional drugs increased by 2.4%, a big turnaround from last year’s -1.5% decline. 
  • Drug trend for specialty drugs increased by 14.1%, its lowest rate since 2007.
  • Specialty drugs accounted for 27.7% of total spending, up from 24.4% in 2012.
  • Specialty spending remains highly concentrated within four therapy classes.
Tomorrow, I’ll look at Express Scripts’ tough talk on hepatitis C drug prices and how this new report illustrates PBMs’ challenges in controlling these costs.