Day one of NACDS Total Store Expo (TSE) begins with a buzz of excitement that’s impossible to deny. It’s something akin to the first day of school, everyone prepared with news to share and an eagerness to share it! And later, as focus and determination take the place of anticipation, strategies are formed to allow for as much TSE experience as possible in a tiny three-day window. It can be daunting, a room with 650 billion dollars’ worth of business, and thousands upon thousands of square feet of exhibitions to see and experience. It’s a great team event, from a divide and conquer standpoint. You get the experience of taking things in from your teammates point of view, which in itself can be a whole new experience. Soon everyone is in full swing, and the show floor is a beehive of activity — foot traffic at the booth, insight sessions to get to, meals and multiple meetings to attend— it all collides to form one beautiful string of highlights!
It’s hard to believe the conference is already three weeks in the rearview, but allow me to reflect on a few takeaways from the show that had the greatest impact on me:
- The overwhelming number of CBD products
- The notable increase in interest drug manufacturers are showing in specialty medicine
- All the big names in the fight against the opioid crisis
The CBD Boom
Less than a year ago the Farm Bill passed, and CBD (hemp-based) became legal in all 50 states. But most people, regardless of where they stood on the issue, were confused as to what that actually meant. Adding to the confusion, each state seemed to have a slightly different interpretation and application of the law.
But walking into TSE, it was clear that there were more CBD vendors than any other type of vendor across all categories. The expanse of product types was just astonishing, everything from tinctures to vape pens, lotions and salves, and don’t forget gummies and vitamins. If you have a shelf to fill, these vendors have one or twenty products to fill it. As I listened to different reps make their pitch, I began to wonder —how many of these vendors will I see again next year, and what kind of impact will CBD have on our economy?
Answers to my questions and those of many other exhibitors came from Sean Ryan, the Insight Session speaker for CBD—What’s Next? Ryan’s session dug deep bringing more questions to the surface regarding CBD and whether it is likely to remain favorable among the masses. His focus was to help retailers weigh the pros and cons associated with offering CBD to their customers.
There are some very big names in retail that have already begun carrying CBD items. CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Ulta Beauty, and GNC, to name a few. For those willing to watch and wait, these pilot programs could be a good indicator as to how things will play out on a larger scale. There are still many more questions than answers, but it’s clear that CBD, in some form or fashion, is here to stay for the foreseeable future.
The Impact of Specialty Medicine
It seems that the rapid growth of specialty medicine is well aligned with the cultural switch from “fee-for-service” to “outcome-based” health. It’s about taking the time to connect the dots for each patient, rather than getting them in and out. And sometimes the result is finding that traditional medicine alone is not the optimal patient treatment. Currently, only 2% of the population is taking a biologic, but specialty medicine is responsible for more than 40% of the prescription drug-spend. With a growth rate of six times that of traditional drug development, the drug spend is sure to continue to rise.
Cost is understandably the biggest concern surrounding specialty medicine. In Doug Long’s session, Exploring Specialty Drugs & Care Services in Community Pharmacy, he points out that up to now, cost of care hasn’t really impacted the end patient, but that this is sure to change as insurance companies cannot continue to cover the rising costs. Only time will tell what the solution is, but with so many interested in this sector of the market, brand competition and biosimilar alternatives have the potential to provide more options for patients and prescribers and the ability to drive costs down for those who pay the bills.
The Opioid Crisis
NACDS president and chief executive officer Steven Anderson, announced the association’s commitment to “advancing pharmacy’s role as part of the opioid-abuse solution.” He also underlined the new NACDS Policy Partners Portal, which gives suppliers resources to voice and find to solutions on these critical topics, and even a 30 second ad emphasizing the importance of pharmacists as educators and preventers overdose.
It’s been just over two years since President Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency. The crisis still claims roughly 130 Americans lives each day, but it seems that from an awareness standpoint, America is beginning to turn the tide. At TSE, show goers were clearly united by not only concern, but in willingness to make changes to help combat the epidemic.
If you take a closer look, there are pharmacies across the US who are now in their fourth or fifth year of running overdose education and prevention programs. CVS started Pharmacists Teach back in 2015 and has successfully reached over half a million students and parents with education on the misuse of prescriptions and its tragic consequences.
At the end each summer I look forward to attending NACDS TSE, I appreciate the balance of current issues, innovations, and the opportunity for industry’s leaders to bring their latest offerings to the table. Whether its CBD, specialty medicine, or the battle against the opioid epidemic, I always leave with more than what I came with –a deeper team connection, incredible educational content, and dozens of impactful client and partner meetings. Till next year!
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