Four Drug Trends Hospital Pharmacies Can’t Afford to Ignore

Joe Constantin, R.Ph.  -  May 26, 2016

These 4 drug trends for hospitals can be controlled, managed and addressed with the right processes and technology.

(1) Rising Drug Prices
Prescription drug prices continue to rise. According to the just-released report by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics (Medicines Use and Spending in the U.S.: A Review of 2015 and Outlook to 2020), U.S. drug spending reached $310 billion in 2015, up 8.5 percent from the previous year. The study found that the growth was fueled by new brands and protected brand price increases, as well as increased use of generics and a small increase in demand for branded drugs.

The New York Times and Wall Street Journal report that this isn’t likely to change, in spite of intense focus by political candidates and the Legislature. J. Michael Pearson, the chief of Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, has been subpoenaed to testify before the Senate Special Committee on Aging, which is investigating the drug-pricing issue.

With the increasing cost of their inventory, pharmacies must find ways to manage and track their medications, or risk losing enormous amounts of money restocking new or expired products. Aethon is a company with a solution – MedEx.  MedEx is a suite of products designed to prepare, track, secure, distribute and confirm medication deliveries. With a 400-bed hospital missing an average of 36,500 doses annually, it’s no surprise the MedEx products are so well-received by hospitals.

(2) Changes in Healthcare Delivery

According to the same report by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, over the past five years, Integrated Delivery Networks (IDNs) have expanded their affiliations with healthcare professionals in an effort to increase negotiating power with insurers, leverage economies of scale and drive pay-for-performance initiatives. More than 54 percent of all U.S. health care professionals are affiliated with IDNs. Newer facility types, such as urgent care centers and pharmacy in-store clinics, have grown by 115 percent in the past five years.

With the changes in how healthcare is delivered, and the need for collaboration within larger networks, pharmaceutical tracking is critical. Enter Aethon’s MedEx software product, MedSafe, which manages order preparation and courier delivery tracking and ensures chain-of-custody delivery.  MedSafe allows pharmacy departments to electronically verify the preparation of medications by scanning the order and then the NDC code on the medication.  This ensures the correct medication is assigned to the order. Another MedEx product, TubeSafe, eliminates lost or missing doses delivered through a hospital’s existing pneumatic tube system.

3) Pharmaceutical Recalls

With the various types of drugs on the market and the myriad of regulations they face, pharmaceutical recalls are a constant reality. Corporate mergers and an increase in drug approvals are making the process even more complex. According to Stericycle’s 4th Quarter 2015 Recall Index, 50 products impacting 44 companies experienced a recall in 2015.  Stericycle also reports that climbing prescription drug prices, manufacturing advancements, and internet drug purchasing have resulted in massive increases in counterfeit drug production – which reached $200 billion in 2015.

(4) New Medications

According to the clinical trial resource, CenterWatch, the Food and Drug Administration approved over 100 new medications in 2015 and has already approved 18 in 2016. The 21st Century Cures Act moving through Congress could make the high number of FDA approvals in 2015 the beginning of a trend.

Careful management of the recall and replacement of medications is of critical importance in hospital pharmacies which are responsible for the integrity of the trays and kits used throughout the hospital. TraySafe, manufactured by Aethon, automates tray replenishment, tracks expiration and lot information, and allows the pharmacy to control and track the distribution of inventory. And unlike competing products, it also it ensures the tray is correctly configured with all material in the correct location in the tray, without the use of expensive RFID tags.

Rising drug prices, changes in how we deliver healthcare, the frequency of drug recalls and counterfeiting, and the increase in new medications are four trends impacting how hospital pharmacies need to function in the coming years.