HIGPA’s Pharmacy Forum

By Curtis Rooney

You may not have heard the joke about the Congressman, the FBI agent and the ethicist, but if you attended HIGPA’s Pharmacy Forum (Feb. 9-11), you could have raised your hand and asked any one of them your questions about the issues facing the healthcare industry.

Keynote speaker, Representative John Shadegg (R-Ariz.), member of the Energy & Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Health, described his experience with important healthcare matters as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Participants got a Washington insider’s perspective on the critical healthcare issues now taking shape in the 111th Congress. He noted that President Obama included healthcare in his Inaugural Address as well as in his economic stimulus request to Congress. But the Congressman added that the “devil is always in the details.”

FBI Special Agent Spencer Evans, San Diego Division, described the FBI’s strategy regarding the investigation and prosecution of individuals and organizations that illegally manufacture, market and sell pharmaceuticals through the Internet. Those engaged in these lucrative practices risk running up against the long arm of federal law enforcement, he said.

Emily Friedman, independent health policy and ethics analyst, discussed comparative effectiveness, and subtitled her presentation, “A Model, a Metaphor, or a Muddle?” She stated that most safety and effectiveness information submitted to the FDA is based on research that compares a drug or device against a placebo. The problem is, this does not provide information as to the safety and effectiveness of the treatment compared to other therapies. Friedman added that comparative research conducted by private organizations is fragmented and overlapping, nor is the information widely disseminated.

Fred Pane, senior director of pharmacy affairs and new business development, Premier, Inc., led a panel of experts on reimbursement issues. They reported that the rate of inflation for pharmaceuticals outpaced that of medical inflation in 2008. Panelists Danielle Lloyd, senior director, reimbursement policy for Premier, and Perry Bridger, vice president, Avalere Health LLC, suggested, however, that the federal government continues to show a strong interest in reducing the sale price of drugs under Medicare in 2009. Additional highlights of the Pharmacy Forum included the following:

  • Bill McInturff, lead pollster for the McCain presidential campaign, recounted the events of 2008 from his unique insider’s perspective. He also discussed how healthcare issues played out in the campaign and how they are likely to figure in the days, months and years to come.
  • William McGivney, Ph.D., CEO, National Comprehensive Cancer Network, discussed the economic, clinical and political ramifications of oncology therapeutics.
  • James Hoffman, medication outcomes and safety officer, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, described the status of “follow-on biologics,” the clinical and economic impact of biologic drug therapies, and the barriers to the widespread commercialization of these drugs in the U.S. market.
  • Shabbir Dahod, co-founder and chairman of SupplyScape, Woburn, Mass., moderated a panel on GS1, traceability issues and pedigree. Panelists included Ron Bone, senior vice president, McKesson Corp.; Dennis Byer, senior director SCDM and industry standards, Novation; and Marjorie Powell, senior assistant general counsel, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.
  • Industry expert Mark Neuenschwander talked about medication-use automation in general and bar-code point-of-care technology.
  • Ron Hartmann, chairman of HIGPA’s GPO pharmacy committee, moderated a panel discussion on major issues facing GPO pharmacy executives. Participants included Doug Long, vice president of industry relations, and Robert Hunkler, director of professional relations, both with IMS Health.

Curtis Rooney is president of the Health Industry Group Purchasing Association (www.higpa.org), Washington, D.C.