Thursday, December 20, 2012

2012 Drug Channels Year in Review

Dear Drug Channels reader,

This is my 145th (and final) post for 2012. Thank you for welcoming me into your inboxes and browsers this year. I also appreciate the many people who took time to engage in often-spirited discussions below the articles.

Below are 2012’s top 10 most viewed articles. Looking over the list, you can see what an eventful 12 months it's been. There's been no shortage of important drug channel developments!

Drug Channels will return in 2013. In the meantime, please enjoy the video greeting below from my sombrero-sporting alter ego. As you can see, I’ve learned a few new dance moves since last year!

All the best to you and your family,

TOP 10 OF '12

Here are the top ten posts, ranked by total page views. As of this morning, the #1 article had nearly 9,000 views.

1) Transparency is Here! CMS Exposes Pharmacy Prescription Profit Margins
No surprise to see this article at the top of the heap. CMS’ controversial publication of pharmacy revenue and acquisition cost data will remain a big story in 2013. Look for some all-new analysis in my forthcoming 2012-13 Economic Report on Retail, Mail, And Specialty Pharmacies.

2) Walgreens is Losing Its Battle with Express Scripts
My take on the battle between the largest drugstore chain and the biggest pharmacy benefit manager raised some eyebrows. While no one knows the ultimate economic terms of the settlement, I’m pretty sure that the net present value of this move was not positive for Walgreens. Rival pharmacies gained from Walgreen’s losses, especially CVS.

3) The 13 Fastest-Growing, Private Specialty Pharmacies
Specialty is becoming an ever-larger part of the pharmaceutical and pharmacy industries, as evidenced by these fast-growing private independent specialty pharmacies. While the list only includes companies that submitted data to the Inc. 5000 list, it’s a good snapshot of the dynamic world beyond the big 3 companies (Express Scripts, CVS Caremark, and Walgreens). In November, Axium Pharmacy, the third-largest company on the list, was snatched up by Kroger.

4) New Data on Specialty Pharmacy’s Challenge to Buy-and-Bill
Specialty pharmacy providers are increasing their role in managing and distributing specialty pharmaceuticals covered under a patient’s medical benefit. This article highlighted the emerging pharmacy vs. provider battle. (Here’s another one on the oral oncology channel.) Buy-and-bill won’t end for all physician-infused drugs, but the pressure for change continues to grow. As I note in How Hospitals Inflate Specialty Drug Prices, excessive profiteering by hospital systems adds to the conflict.

5) The DEA Nabs CVS and Walgreen
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) continues to treat manufacturers and the legitimate upstream supply chain like the MedellĂ­n Cartel. Throughout 2012, I was highly critical of the DEA’s activities, as in February’s Cardinal Fights a Misdirected DEA. The DEA is not slowing down, as evidenced by their pursuit of FedEx and UPS (noted in the November 2012 news roundup). Will you be next?

6) Pfizer's Lipitor Strategy and the 2012 Generic Monster
2012 was a huge year for generic launches, as the two top-selling products—Lipitor and Plavix—moved into the open competition period for generic alternatives. I’ve been somewhat constrained in covering post-exclusivity strategies, due to my consulting work with bio/pharm manufacturers. But given few more years of the generic wave, you may want to take another look at Pharmacy Profits Over the Generic Life Cycle: Explaining the NARP-NADAC Data.

7) 7 Reasons Why Specialty Drug Dispensing Will Boom
Appropriately enough, article #7's look at specialty’s future growth was the seventh most read article. Specialty Pharmacy Times reprinted the article in May. I was pleasantly surprised to see CVS Caremark cite my article during its analyst day presentation last week.

8) Humana-Walmart Preferred Network Plan Wins Big in Part D
In 2012, narrower pharmacy network models became a mainstream phenomenon. In 2013, the number of Medicare Part D prescription drug plans with preferred network structures will more than double. I’ll update the enrollment data in February.

9) A New Generic Wave Update, Courtesy of Express Scripts
Express Scripts helpfully continued Medco’s tradition of providing the industry with a detailed list of brand-name drugs that will be facing generic competition. The wave is good news for the channel, until the music stops in a few years...

10) The Great Mail Pharmacy Slowdown
This article examined the factors behind the long-term slowdown in the growth of prescriptions dispensed via mail pharmacy. Pharmacy owners can whine all they want about mail pharmacies, but the data clearly show chains winning as the expense of all other dispensing formats.

Here are 5 more that just missed the top 10:

Have a great holiday and happy new year! Click here if you can't see the video.


  1. Thank you for a great year, Dr. Fein! I have forwarded your emails many times to my coworkers. Very helpful to us in planning and strategy. happy new year!!

  2. Dr. Fein,
    Thanks for all the great reporting and analysis in 2012.  I look forward to your posts in 2013.

  3. Thanks for the education and entertainment over the past year.  Look forward to next year! 

  4. ¡Ay, caramba!

    Impressive articles. Dancing is not bad, either.