The subject of medical cannabis has been a source of widespread debate for decades. This has become even more true in April 2016, when pharmacy giant Walgreen's published a blog post entitled “Clarifying Clinical Cannabis”.
Walgreen’s post defines medical cannabis, lists the illnesses and conditions it can help manage, and outlines its various methods of administration. It also explains how the substance affects the body, what its potential side effects are, and how patients can get a prescription for it. The article even talks about why the use of clinical cannabis has been debated for so long, pointing out that it’s associated with negative effects but has also been discovered to help with appetite improvement, muscle stiffness, and pain relief.
The blog post, which was written by Dahlia Sultan (a resident pharmacist at Walgreen's and the University of Illinois-Chicago) surprised many medical cannabis advocates. The fact alone that Walgreen's decided to talk about this topic was a shock, considering that many corporations either decline to comment about it or avoid the subject altogether.
A lot of people were also astonished at the neutral tone of Walgreen’s blog post and the informative approach it took. Many took this as a good sign, since the post doesn’t only open the doors for discussion but also educates patients that opioid painkillers are not the only option. In fact, the blog post states, “If you’d like more information about the use of medical marijuana.” This is an important message since a lot of patients nowadays are dealing with chronic pain, but their doctors are hesitant to suggest clinical cannabis.
Alan Brochstein of New Cannabis Ventures sums up the thoughts of many medical cannabis advocates by saying, “I can’t recall any S&P 500 company ever sharing such a supportive view.” This is particularly even more significant for Walgreen's which, as Brochstein points out, is actively involved in the lives of patients and is considered to be a reliable source of healthcare advice.
Pharmacies and Medical Cannabis
Another interesting sentence from Walgreen's blog post is its disclaimer that the company is “not a licensed medical marijuana provider.” According to Ricardo Baca of The Cannabist, Walgreens might have recognized that pharmacies may soon get the permit to be a legal supplier. This is especially true now that prescription drugs made of cannabis derivatives are working toward getting an FDA permit. Brochstein also asks if Walgreen's has smelled a huge opportunity, considering that Canadian pharmacies have stated that they want to be a part of the medical cannabis program.
It might be true that Walgreen's wants to cash in on the clinical cannabis trend and is taking steps toward getting the license to sell the substance. However, this doesn’t change the fact that, as of the moment, pharmacies in the U.S. are not allowed to supply this substance — even in states where the use of medical and recreational cannabis is already allowed. Any pharmacist who disobeys this rule will lose his or her license and will no longer be allowed to dispense controlled substances to patients.
There are many reasons why U.S. pharmacies are not allowed to dispense medical cannabis. One of the biggest reasons is that pharmacies are required to sell only drugs that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Cannabis, unfortunately, is a long way from getting FDA approval.
In fact, it’s stuck in a catch-22: it’s classified as a Schedule I substance, which means it has a high potential for abuse and has “no currently accepted medical use”. (Heroin is another substance placed under this category.) This makes it difficult for researchers to study cannabis and identify its medical uses, which would have helped remove it from Schedule I and downgrade it to a less severe schedule.
Because of this classification, researchers find it hard to get grants and even obtain cannabis plants to experiment on. This means that they can’t put cannabis through the standard drug development research process, like what commercially available medications have gone through. This process is important since it would have allowed scientists to study the potentially active chemicals in the plant and understand how they interact with each other and with other substances. These information, in turn, can help reduce the public stigma of cannabis and convince the government, the healthcare system, and patients that medical cannabis is a viable treatment option.
It’s also important to note that many Big Pharma companies are not interested in creating FDA-approved drugs based on cannabis — simply because it doesn’t have a lot of earning potential. They can’t claim ownership of cannabis outright since it’s impossible to patent a plant. This means they’d have to spend time and money on developing an extraction process for one of cannabis’s active chemicals then file a patent for that process. However, even this won’t give them protection since other companies can still extract the chemical using virtually the same procedure with slight variations.
The legalization of medical and recreational cannabis use has also discouraged Big Pharma from pushing the matter forward. After all, if people can easily buy the substance from dispensaries, why would they opt for more expensive versions? This lack of assurance in a stable market has resulted to a slowdown in the development of FDA-approved cannabis-based drugs.
The Future of Medical Cannabis
Fortunately, the future of clinical cannabis isn’t bleak. Many organizations and companies are swimming against the current to learn more about the plant and its active chemicals and discover how they can be used in the medical setting. British company GW Pharmaceuticals has been studying a drug called Sativex, which is made of THC and CBD (the two major chemicals from cannabis). The Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies, meanwhile, wants to compare cannabis smoking and vaporizing to see which is the safer administration method.
Some countries have also realized that dispensing drugs through pharmacies is a smart step to take. The Canadian Pharmacy Association, for example, has expressed its belief that pharmacies provide the safest means of dispensing cannabis, compared to dispensaries and compassion clubs. This approach will hopefully spread to the United States and eventually make it possible for the substance to be sold in pharmacies.
Organizations are even providing training to help people become more knowledgeable in the clinical use of cannabis. One of these is Americans For Safe Access, which has created the Medical Cannabis Advocate's Training Center for those who want to learn more about citizen lobbying, grassroots campaigning, and other activities.
Are you looking to start or further your career in the pharmaceutical industry? You are sure to find career options on job boards, on a pharmaceutical company’s website, recruitment agencies and through LinkedIn pharmaceutical career search.
Why it's good to use LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a social network where business owners, organizations, employees and professionals meet to establish their profiles and take advantage of the online platform’s many features. It offers plenty of benefits as well.
Why LinkedIn is good for a niche like pharmacy and pharmaceutical careers
Most profiles are listed as a specialty, or classified according to your industry or career. So whenever someone searches for a pharmacist or one with related qualifications, LinkedIn will point you in the right direction with accuracy. You can bet that a search result will be related to the pharmaceutical industry. This effectively narrows down your options, and helps you find prospective employers.
How to use LinkedIn to find a job in the pharmaceutical industry
By sell, it means a profile that catches attention and conveys a message that a potential employer wants to see. Three of the most important things you need to showcase is your headline, name and photo. A good headline must be creative without being too informal or unprofessional, and memorable.
Giacomo Bracci Helsen provides an excellent example with a headline that says “He's a left/right brainer design thinking strategist”, instead of the usual marketing and advertising specialist.
Your profile should say a lot about you being a job seeker and not just someone being part of the social network. A good headline should send a shout out to recruiters and employers looking for a pharmacist or similar careers.
LinkedIn lets you add videos, blog posts and other tools that can boost your profile. So why stick with the usual way to present your work experience, achievements, and the like?
What better way to know if your target company is hiring new employees, than to follow them on LinkedIn via their company page? Get the latest update, newsletters and other information that you can use to reach out to hiring managers.
Similar to other social networks, LinkedIn lets you connect with colleagues, friends and other professionals in the pharmaceutical industry, some of which know someone in the business. This is the easiest way to increase your visibility and get first-hand information for any job offers and openings.
If you and someone in your network has a common connection with your target company or person, ask them to introduce you. This works in the virtual world as well as it does in the real world.
Do you have a target company in mind? Using the Advanced People Search feature in LinkedIn, you will be able to identify the hiring manager of the company you wish to work with. Simply type in the company name and the title of the hiring manager.
When you know more about a company, you can create a sales pitch that will conform to its vision, mission or culture. Who doesn't want a candidate that fits?
If you use a target company’s name in the Advanced Search page, you will know who in your network are connected, one way or another, with the organization. Talk to them and get details.
Don’t be that job seeker who waits and does nothing after completing their profile. Even if your headline grabs attention, you should find ways to exploit LinkedIn to your advantage.
How to improve your profile and resume
Take into account all the tips listed above, and improve your profile and resume accordingly. Remember to make your headline count, and upload other tools to boost your online visibility.
Created by the US federal government in 1992, the 340B Drug Pricing Program was supposed to help poor patients acquire outpatient drugs at significantly reduced prices. It mandates drug manufacturers to allow covered entities to reach as many eligible patients as possible by stretching scarce federal resources. Unfortunately, the pricing program has now become a source of pain, rather than cure, for many patients.
A clever lawyer discovered a massive loophole in the 340B Drug Pricing Program, turning it from an obscure government program into a means for hospitals to make money at the expense of patients. 340B specifies that drug manufacturers provide discounts for poor people, not whoever provides the outpatient drugs. This gave hospitals the idea to keep the discounts for themselves, instead of passing it on to patients. Pharmacies, especially brand new stores, are exploiting the loophole as well.
But the benefits that hospitals and pharmacies are enjoying right now are at risk of coming to an end. A report by AIR 340B, a group linked to drug makers, revealed that the 340B Drug Pricing Program has gone unchecked for too long, resulting in an estimated program sales of $16.1 billion in 2016 and an expected total drug sales to reach $23 billion by 2021. The group is urging policymakers to reexamine theprogram, and ensure that it serves its original intent. They're also pushing to limit the program's expansion.
In an AIR 340B-sponsored roundtable discussion, senior legislative assistant for Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), Ted Alexander said that Collins is looking to improve transparency of the program, but nothing is certain about what will happen to it. What is certain, however, is that a number of different health care bills will be submitted next Congress, and stakeholders would do well to gather information as to how the340B Drug Pricing Program will affect federal spending
Last November, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has released an addendum to the 340B Drug Pricing Program. This required drug manufacturers to include in their existing PPA the following terms:
With the new changes coming, the fight to discredit the drug pricing program is renewed.
Hospitals, pharmacies and other safety-net providers, however, claim that the program must be protected, since it allows entities to provide improved healthcare services with little to no insurance.
In a December email to Bloomberg BNA, 340B Health’s vice president of communications, Randy Barrett, accused the drug industry to have “commissioned a cynical report designed to protect future profits”. Any move that will cut back the program could have an adverse effect to the poor across America, since this will result in an increase in medicine prices and a decrease in access to clinical care.
With the ongoing debate and opposing moves, the future of the 340B Drug Pricing Program is definitely uncertain.
Do you want to be a part of a lucrative business while helping other people? Your best bet is to join a pharmacy franchise, where you not only sell medicines, but also provide other forms of assistance to patients who need them. It is also a great way to gain business confidence, considering that you've been entrusted to use someone else's brand and help market it.
Why join a pharmacy franchise?
In a franchise, every aspect of a business is taken care of before it is handed to you. Unlike a regular startup, you don't need to create a business plan, study the trends and your target market, or find a suitable location for your business. You may need to take out a business loan or borrow money to pay for the franchise, but everything else will be handled on your behalf. In some cases, even hiring employees will be handled by the mother company. So if you want to start a business in the pharmaceutical industry, a pharmacy franchise is a great idea.
What is your company’s vision and mission? How are employees expected to act? What type of services should they offer? The answer to these are already provided, so you don't need to develop your own rules and policies. Just follow what has already been established and proven effective.
In franchising, you are selling a brand that usually has an established market or following. This provides better branding and marketing, which will prove advantageous to a franchise owner. After all, they are not only marketing the brand, but the quality of service as well. This gives you an edge over new, and unknown startups.
How you pay for your franchise will depend on agreed terms and policies. When franchising a pharmacy, you may be required to pay a one-off franchise fee, followed by a royalty fee paid monthly. With a predictable payment option, a franchise owner need not worry about fees changing without notice, and they know how much they need to make to cover payments and gain a profit.
When you join a pharmacy franchise, you don't need to worry as to where you can source medicines and other supplies, since these will be provided for you. Just keep your inventory updated and you won't have to run out of stocks. Different franchises, however, may have different levels of requirements in terms of the look and feel of a pharmacy, which will dictate as to which stocks you can and can’t carry.
In business, however, not everything is all sunshine and happiness. Joining a pharmacy franchise is no different, and its biggest risk would be the company’s reputation. It only takes one franchise to ruin an entire company. But, if you choose a trusted and well-known brand, it will take a lot to ruin its reputation.
With the advantages outweighing the disadvantages, you should not hesitate to join a pharmacy franchise.
Request more information about joining a Pharmacy Franchise Now!
Donald Trump’s new administration is causing many marijuana users to worry about the future of the marijuana policy. Trump’s statements in the past and his actions following his win were both pro- and anti-marijuana, throwing people into a state of uncertainty.
While his statements have been pro-marijuana, he has appointed anti-marijuana people in key positions, such as Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. Sessions has been described by colleagues as someone who had a problem with the Ku Klux Klan, particularly because they smoke cannabis. Many believe that it is unlikely that Sessions has changed his stance against marijuana.
This has pushed marijuana activists and the American Legion, the largest veterans organization in the United States, to urge Trump toreschedule marijuana. The legion is asking the new administration to reschedule the status of marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III, which will “allow easier access to pure strains of the substance to cultivate quantifiable research and statistics regarding marijuana’s medical benefits”.
At present, its designation as Schedule I puts marijuana in the same level as Ecstasy, heroin, Quaaludes, LSD, and peyote. But veterans are adamant that marijuana is made more accessible or, at least, research into its medical benefits be continued, because of its potential to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury.
Considering that many veterans suffer from PTSD, pushing for a reschedule is definitely worth fighting for, what with the possibility of marijuana providing a possible cure. The Legion further pushes for the amendment of the legislation, so that cannabis will be recognized as a drug with a potential medical value.
The Drug Enforcement Agency has approved the study on the effectiveness of cannabis for treating PTSD. The agency has already approved the use of marijuana to treat the disorder through inhalation. This makes the move to reschedule marijuana more logical than ever.
During a meeting between the Legion and Trump’s transition team, it was noted that the new administration’s officials were guarded in giving feedback, but when the subject of cannabis potentially healing war wounds of military veterans came up, the team’s reaction changed significantly.
National director of the Legion’s veterans affairs and rehabilitation division, Louis Celli, told Marijuana.com that Trump officials were a little caught off guard when that piece of information was revealed.
But is it enough to convince the administration to reschedule marijuana?
The Legion certainly hoped that there wouldn’t be a roll back on the progress of marijuana research because of its potential to cure PTSD. Everything else seems ineffective.
Former Veterans Affairs psychiatrist and lead researcher Dr. Sue Sisley said that veterans feel like guinea pigs being used to test various treatments for PTSD, but with no positive results. They are simply exhausted and getting desperate.
With the failure of traditional medications to address the problem, Sisley hopes to pursue further her research on cannabis as a treatment for mental health conditions.
According to her, “While I can’t say definitively that medical marijuana works for PTSD -- we are three years away from published data -- we owe it to veterans to study this plant”.
Between marijuana activists and the American Legion, the latter is much more respected in the eyes of Trump officials. If they can convince a reschedule and get the pharmaceutical industry in on research and development, PTSD may finally have a cure.
Around 20 years ago, the pharmacy industry offered the best opportunity to students: a six-figure income, a respected job title, a rewarding career that allows them to help people, and plenty of jobs waiting for them after they graduate. Today, however, this is NO longer the case.
The pharmacist job market has become over-saturated to the point that student pharmacists are finding it hard to land a job. A 2013 study conducted by eight Midwest schools found out that, out of 783 pharmacy students who were about to graduate in four weeks, only 81 percent had found employment or was getting into a post-graduate program. Sixteen percent had not found a job, and three percent had not begun looking for employment. These figures contrast starkly with the observations of pharmacy professor Daniel L. Brown, who noted that, before 2009, almost 100 percent of pharmacy students had jobs waiting for them around six months before they graduated.
Purdue University, which has one of the leading pharmacy schools in the country, has also observed this upward trend in unemployment among graduating pharmacy students. In 2009, Purdue’s pharmacy students had 12 job offers before they graduated, but that number dwindled to one to three offers a few years later. In 2008, only one student out of the entire graduating class was still looking for work; in 2013, 12 students were still looking for a job a few weeks before graduation.
Data collected by the Pharmacist Demand Indicator (formerly the Aggregate Demand Index) also reflect the challenges in the pharmacist job market. Its Quarter 4 2016 report shows that only a handful of states have high employment demands and are finding it hard to fill positions. The rest have moderate demand or are maintaining a precarious balance between demand and supply, and some even don’t have enough jobs for the number of pharmacists in the area.
Why Is This Happening?
There are many factors that contribute to the downward trend of the pharmacy job market. Laws that would have expanded the roles of pharmacists and allow them to take on some client counseling responsibilities have not yet been approved both on state and federal levels. This means that pharmacists can’t charge for their counseling and advisory services and that the industry as a whole cannot financially support the influx of more pharmacy professionals.
Academic expansion is also an issue. When the Pharmacy Workforce Center predicted in 2001 there would be a shortage of over 150,000 pharmacists in the next two decades, colleges and universities all over the U.S. opened new pharmacy programs and increased their class sizes. As a result, more and more students received pharmacy degrees, saturating the market and competing with each other for limited job vacancies.
With everything that’s happening in the job market, the American Pharmacy Purchasing Alliance (APPA) decided to conduct a student pharmacists job market survey. It took place in April 2017 and had 122 participants, who were asked to answer five questions about the job market.
The purpose of this survey was to find out how students feel about their job prospects and the future of pharmacy as a career. Their opinions are an important part of the job market discussion because they are the demographic that is most impacted by the decrease in demand of professional pharmacists. With fewer job opportunities plus rising student loan debts, many student pharmacists can find themselves in difficult situations after graduation.
The APPA student pharmacists job market survey found out that a lot of students feel there is currently a surplus of PharmD graduates. Some have noted that many of their fellow student pharmacists have left their hometowns to secure employment. Others have observed that doing Postgraduate Year One (PGY1) is no longer enough to distinguish pharmacists, which pushes many professionals to do PGY2. According to one participant, there might come a time when third-year postgraduate studies become necessary for pharmacists to stand out and be noticed by employers.
A lot of student pharmacists feel that pharmacy schools should consider decreasing their student enrollment since the rising number of graduates contributes to the over-saturation of the job market. Some point out that the current state of enrollment rates decreases the amount of competition to get into pharmacy schools and produces graduates who are less competent in their field. Others, meanwhile, feel that the increasing number of people with PharmD degrees decreases the value of the degree.
The student pharmacists job market survey also touched on the issue of pharmacists who study abroad and have less schooling than those who study in the United States. Many of the participants have noticed that these overseas-educated pharmacists do have an impact on the U.S. pharmacy job market, especially in the retail and community setting. Some of the study participants point out that the issue might be influenced by American pharmacists’ belief that pharmacy education abroad does not match the United States’ standards.
The study participants were also asked to give advice to current pharmacy students on how they could secure employment right after graduation. Many important tips were given, including positioning themselves as a leader even while they’re still in school and doing networking activities to build relationships with other professionals and potential employees. Joining relevant clubs, obtaining internships, and doing volunteer activities in the pharmacy community are other strategies to stand out as a candidate, either for a job or for a residency position.
The final question of the APPA student pharmacists job market survey asked the participants if they would consider picking another profession, considering what they know about the employment outlook for pharmacy students. A lot of the participants revealed that they would NOT switch professions even if the current job market presents challenges instead of opportunities.
Some revealed that being a pharmacist was their dream since it allows them to help other people, so giving it up is not an option. Others state that, aside from reducing the number of pharmacy schools and making class sizes smaller, another way to improve the job market is to make the profession more focused on people and service and less on sales. Still others point out that all job markets — not just pharmacy — are saturated, so it all boils down to finding a niche in your industry where you can build your success.
How Can You Find Success in the Current Job Market?
Among the topics tackled in APPA’s student pharmacists job market survey, perhaps the most important is the strategies that students can use to improve their employment practices. As mentioned above, there are several ways for students to secure a job before or right after they graduate. One of the most effective is getting into a niche market.
Many pharmacy niches are not as saturated as the traditional markets, which means you’ll deal with less competition and find it easier to stand out from the crowd. A lot of niches focus on new and interesting branches of pharmacy, making them a great option if you’re looking for exciting and challenging work that test your skills and knowledge.
If you decide to use strategy, the next thing you should do is to pick a pharmacy niche to focus on. We’ve listed some of them below to help you choose the right option:
These are just some of the pharmacy niches you can explore. Choosing the right niche to specialize in can be overwhelming, so it’s important to take the time to make your decision. Consult your professors and mentors and get their perspective; they can help you go over possible niches and choose one that best suits your strengths. Once you’ve identified a niche that you might like, look for volunteer opportunities that will give you the chance to test the waters and see if this niche really is the right choice for you.
Drug abuse is illegal in most places. But some countries in Europe are making the unhealthy vice more acceptable through “safe injections sites” in a bid to protect users against possible overdose. The same concept is on its way to the United States, which can have serious consequences, especially where heroin use is concerned. Is safe house for heroin injection really the solution to ensure heroin users stay safe and alive for longer?
Facts about Heroin
Heroin, also called dope, junk, horse, and smack, is an opioid made from morphine. It is often injected, snorted or smoked. When it enters the brain, it transforms back into morphine and binds to brain receptors linked to feelings of pain and pleasure, creating a feeling of euphoria.
Heroin is highly addictive and can lead to an overdose that could result in death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 13,000 people died of a heroin-related overdose in 2015. Most deaths involve males aged 25-44.
Massachusetts and California are just two of the cities in the US that recommend the use of a safe house for heroin injection. The former has yet to make a vote, while the latter already has a bill that is just waiting to be passed.
The goal is to provide heroin users access to clean and safe injections that they can use and have a legally-sanctioned room where they can ride out their high under the supervision of a nurse or doctor. Supervised drug consumption facilities already exist in Europe, but has yet to be available in the US.
Are Safe Injection Sites the Answer?
In 2015, about 33,000 Americans died from an overdose of opioid use, which is a result of a deadly, and widespread opioid abuse. Prescription drugs OxyContin and Vicodin deliver similar effects as heroin, which is why most people who abuse them ended up using heroin.
Officials in California and anywhere else in the US are simply looking for ways to deal with a deadly epidemic, and safe injection sites could be the answer. According to Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman, the facilities will keep addicts from infections due to use of unclean injections and from assaults.
She also pointed how this can limit the number of needles being thrown on the streets and then used by someone else, resulting in infections and, in worse cases, contracting HIV and hepatitis C. It is a fact that heroin users that inject drugs are at risk of getting HIV and HCV through the needles they use or share with someone else.
But legislative director for the California State Sheriffs’ Association, Cory Salzillo, voiced concerns over what happens after a person leaves the facility. The aftereffects are still there, but the monitoring is no longer available. He also said that opening injection sites sends the wrong message and may even create liability issues.
There’s also a huge possibility that heroin addicts converging in one place will allow them to network with other addicts, have better and easier access to the drugs, and any hope of them getting better or opting for rehabilitation is lost.
Is a safe house for heroin injection really the answer?
Most of the pharmacies, pharmacists, and other organizations involved in Medicaid and Medicare Fraud schemes were taken down and persecuted with the help of whistleblowers, also called “relators” under the law. In the case of pharmacy Medicare fraud, most whistleblowers are former or current employees of pharmacies or pharmaceutical companies. Under the Pharmacy False Claims Act, anyone who blows the cover on fraudulent activities and companies is awarded a handsome amount. Who would say no to that?
It was Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War Congress that first passed the original federal False Claims Act. The goal was to enlist the help of citizen whistleblowers in a bid to fight against fraudulent profiteers in the war industry. It permits or authorizes anyone to initiate legal actions on behalf of the government, even when they have no affiliation with the federal government. In return, they get rewards and substantial legal rights.
The False Claims Act entitles the government and whistleblowers to recover three times the amount of the fraudulent act committed and proven true. 15% to 30% of the amount collected from fraudulent companies, including substantial penalties and attorney fees, will be awarded to whoever blew the cover on them. The recovered amount is called the qui tam provision.
Right up to the 1980s, the False Claims Act was linked to war-related activities. But in the late 90s, the focus shifted to healthcare fraud. This is when reports of false claims in healthcare provisions increased and became a majority of cases filed under the statute. This resulted in individual pharmacies, pharmacy chains, and the pharmaceutical industry being scrutinized under the federal False Claims Act.
Similar false claims act have been passed by at least 22 states, which contributed largely to the government recovering billions of dollars from fraudulent corporations and organizations. With Medicare and Medicaid fraud one of the largest areas for recoveries, the Pharmacy False Claims Act has now become a weapon against pharmacies, pharmacists, and pharmaceutical companies.
There are several ways that pharmacy fraud can happen, such as auto-refilling of prescriptions that patients never requested, pharmacy kickbacks and bribes, fraud committed by pharmacy benefit managers, and drug switching. All these nefarious acts can be the basis of a whistleblower lawsuit, a term used for a case filed by a whistleblower.
Understanding the Effects of the Pharmacy False Claims Act
Save taxpayers and the government a lot of money
Medicare reports that, every year, billions of dollars are paid off to pharmacies and individuals who commit pharmacy fraud. Unless someone tells on these corporations and individuals, the government will continue to pay services and products that never went to the designated recipients. With more whistleblowers coming forward, however, Medicare has taken down huge corporations and collected penalties in the vicinity of hundreds of millions.
Ensure everyone operates with integrity
Now that the Pharmacy False Claims Act is strictly imposed and more people are coming forward to point fingers, concerned corporations and individuals would have to operate with integrity and find ways to avoid qui tam actions and false claims act liability. It will encourage them to establish a compliance department, encourage employees to report concerns within the company, perform regular checks for internal problems, consider self-disclosure of complaints that have merits, and to respond to a complaint in a timely manner.
Encourage people to be mindful of possible fraudulent activities
Although most whistleblowers work as a current or former employee of a pharmacy or pharmaceutical company, anyone can actually take a qui tam action against suspected fraudulent institutions. This encourages patients and other individuals to be watchful of any transactions they make with pharmacies or physicians. In doing so, pharmacy fraud will be reduced and discouraged.
Some of the companies that settled after being held liable of Pharmacy False Claims Act
Big company names have also made settlements in previous years – GlaxoSmithKline and Ranbaxy Pharmaceuticals made a settlement with the government at $750 million and $500 million, respectively. Major takedowns on companies have resulted in government recoveries amounting to billions.
With whistleblowers receiving 15% to 30% of such settlements, you should seriously consider being on a lookout for pharmacy fraud. Regardless of your motivation, however, it is important to note that there are rules to follow and possible implications for the qui tam actions you take or the whistleblower lawsuit you file.
Is it worth becoming a whistleblower?
A 15 to 30% reward from a fraud case can be substantial, depending on the amount recovered. But there are pros and cons to being a whistleblower. Sure, you get to experience extreme gratification, especially if a case is proven true resulting in a recovery, but it takes a huge amount of courage to file a whistleblower lawsuit, what with you fighting against major corporations. Your identity will become public knowledge once the government’s investigation is complete, which puts a huge question mark on your privacy and safety.
There's also a possibility that a fraud case would take years to resolve, which will keep your reward way out of your reach. And because the result is uncertain, the chances of you receiving a reward is also uncertain.
However, if you only want to do what’s right and ensure no one else falls victim to fraudulent acts, any reward or possible consequence would not be much of a problem.
Help keep taxpayers, which likely includes yourself, from picking up the tabs of small to large pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies by reporting fraudulent activities. Check out the State False Claims Act Reviews of Office of Inspector General (OIG) to learn more about how to file a report under the statute of the Pharmacy False Claims Act.
"We had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Michael Castagna, CEO of Mannkind Corporation for July's issue of Pharmacy Edge Magazine, which is our monthly publication for Independent Pharmacies, Pharmacists and Pharmacy Buyers."
Dr. Michael Castagna is the Chief Executive Officer for Mannkind Corp. Dr. Castagna has over 20 years of experience in healthcare, pharmaceutical, biotech and specialty pharmacy industries. He joins MannKind from Amgen, Inc., where he spent over three years as Vice President, Global Commercial Lead for a portfolio of nine biosimilar drugs, and Vice President, Global Lifecycle Management.
Prior to Amgen, Dr. Castagna, was Executive Director of Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Immunology franchise, where he served as co-lead to relaunch Orencia IV and launch Orencia SC, both rheumatoid arthritis drugs. Before BMS, Dr. Castagna was with Sandoz (Novartis) as Vice President and Division Head for Biopharmaceuticals, North America, where he established the US Biologics Business Unit and relaunched its lead product, Omnitrope, a human growth hormone.
Prior to Sandoz, Dr. Castagna held a variety of positions with EMD (Merck), Serono, Pharmasset and DuPont Pharmaceuticals. Dr. Castagna serves on the board of directors of Pet Partners headquartered in Bellevue, Washington.
Dr. Castagna received his Bachelors of Science – Pharmacy degree from Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, his Doctor of Pharmacy from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy, and his MBA from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.
"MannKind Corporation is a biopharmaceutical company that focuses on the discovery, development and commercialization of therapeutic products for patients with diseases such as diabetes."
FDA-approved AFREZZA is the only inhaled insulin working to help control adult diabetics’ blood sugar during mealtime. AFREZZA is fast-acting insulin that helps you reach and maintain your A1C goal. The rapid-acting insulin reaches maximum (peak) level in 12 to 15 minutes and can stay active for up to 3 hours.
There’s a shift occurring in the world of pharmacy as the profession is the in process of a rebranding. New ideas are spawning innovations in revenue streams such as preventative and nutritional coaching services.
This rebranding is being lead by a grassroots movement of pharmacy owners seeking to change their patient's perception of medication use. For years, these ideas have been shared in in-person organization-sponsored pharmacy conferences, but for the first time ever they are available in a brand new way.
The platform is the internet and the Elevate Pharmacy Virtual Summit is the first-ever completely virtual pharmacy conference experience.
In April 2017, over 1,200 pharmacists from across the globe registered and participated in the ElevatePharmacySummit.com.
As the founder and host, I was able to craft in-depth interviews with innovate pharmacists and experts to share ideas about how you can “Elevate Your Practice of Pharmacy”. I was able to interview pharmacy leaders and innovative entrepreneurs to discuss how they’ve launched and grown successful pharmacy businesses.
I asked them the questions that you wish you could ask the speakers at the national meetings!
And the deeper I dug, the more insight we were able to uncover for other pharmacist-entrepreneurs. For me, there were so many “ah-ha” moments, but there were a few that still stick out in my mind as the key ideas that came from the 2017 Elevate Pharmacy Virtual Summit.
Here are the Top 10 breakthroughs from my own Summit Experience:
One: Less than 5% of pharmacies are utilizing email newsletter as a marketing tool vs. 40% of businesses in other industries.
Think about how many newsletter you are on. Ever wonder why when you buy a new piece of clothing they ask for your email address? Its because you are worth more as a customer if they can communicate with you via email. Email is cheaper than traditional marketing methods. And because of the ease of purchasing goods online, it is one of the most effective methods of marketing.
A very small number of pharmacies are taking advantage of this effective and very cheap marketing method.
Two: Physicians are actively searching for partners.
As expectations change in the healthcare industry, physicians are looking for pharmacists and pharmacies to help them achieve their patient care goals. Payment is being based on performance and therefore, profit is increasingly linked to patient outcomes.
Pharmacists can offer high quality services that focus on physician quality benchmarks, once they understand MACRA and MIPS.
Three: Successful entrepreneurs are hiring professional business coaching and help.
The most successful pharmacy owners and consultants are NOT doing it alone. They invest in themselves, their businesses and in hiring professional business coaches. One of the biggest surprises that came out of the Summit for me was the number of business owners, myself included, who retained business coaches.
Four: There are huge opportunities in nutritional consulting and integrative medicine.
As more and more people are looking to prevent chronic disease and find a way to slow the aging process, there is a huge opportunity for integrative medicine. The gap comes in the number of pharmacists and healthcare providers skilled in providing these services. New CLIA-waived lab tests that can be administered by a pharmacist will go a long way in helping move these consulting services forward.
Five: Successful entrepreneurs focus on self development and building their "soft skills".
The big, gaping hole in my own pharmacy education was DEFINITELY in knowing how to build and run a business. Not even to mention the hiring and management knowledge gap. Pharmacy owners who are successful quickly learn to invest in their own personal development. Many times as a pharmapreneur, your brand IS you. This is called personal branding and it is very hard to brand yourself as a successful business if you haven’t gotten your personal development in check.
Six: The riches are in the niches. Don't try to be everything to everybody.
The most success pharmacy owners that I interviewed on the Elevate Pharmacy Summit understood that they had certain strengths. They started with ONE THING and perfected it. Then, they were able to build in new programs after creating a strong foundation.
One example that comes to mind is in health coaching. One pharmacist I interviewed started with HRT and thyroid consultations. She was able to really focus on that program and build on the success of those initial patients.
Seven: Waiting for permission is a waste of time...
If you are waiting for your state association to provide you a framework for exactly how to do something, you WILL be too late. Innovate entrepreneurs understand that plans change and you can always adapt, but you can’t wait until you have everything figured out.
My mantra is, “once you begin taking action, your path becomes clear”.
Eight: Following your curiosity is the best way to find your passion.
I’ve tried many different ‘hobbies’ on for size. I’ve been curious about everything from gardening and canning to online business and personal finance. The way that I came to my current business is from following my curiosity about MTM services. I learned as much as I could about MTM and started sharing that information. Soon, I unexpectedly became “the person to ask” about MTM services.
It was something that I didn’t expect, but something I am now deeply passionate about. Whether it is your pharmacy or a side hustle, if you haven’t found your passion, try a few ‘hobbies’ on for size and see where your curiosity will lead.
Nine: Continually educate yourself. Not just for CE, but again by following your curiosity and continuing a path of self-development.
This goes back to investing in yourself. There is a fine line to walk when deciding to pursue expensive pharmacy certifications versus just obtaining the required knowledge. You really must think about return on investment. Luckily there are many, many free resources to have at your disposal. Blogs, podcasts, webinars, e-courses, virtual summits; there are so many options that will give you an idea of what opportunities to pursue.
Ten: Entrepreneurship takes guts and luckily rejection doesn’t kill.
Failing is inevitably comes with the territory for entrepreneurs. Fortunately the upside is that you realize how thick your skin can be! When I’m feeling fearful, I do a little exercise with myself that has been helpful to many of my clients as well.
I think about the thing I am fearful of, let's use the example of pitching a collaborative program to a physician. Now I visualize how completely wrong that meeting could go. I imagine the worst case scenario in which the physician is completely uninterested and cuts the meeting short because they do not understand the value in pharmacy services. Then, I visualize myself driving home to my family and putting the meeting behind me.
After doing this exercise for your situation, ask yourself, “Was that really so bad?”
I know it isn't easy to put yourself out there, nor is it easy to agree to be interviewed on video, so I want to especially thank all of the pharmacy leaders who agreed to participate in this year’s Summit.
I continue to be inspired by the speakers on the Elevate Pharmacy Summit and their commitment to elevating the profession of pharmacy.
If you are interested in registering for the 2017 Elevate Pharmacy Virtual Summit Encore, go to ElevatePharmacySummit.com to enter your best email address.
The Summit will be live again September 15-19th, 2017 for those registered, just watch your email for instructions on how to join and participate.
See you on the Summit Encore!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Blair Green Thielemier, PharmD is an independent consultant pharmacist living in Arkansas with her husband and daughter. She is the founder of Pharmapreneur Academy, an online teaching platform where she guides pharmacist-entrepreneurs through the process and barriers of building a pharmacy consulting business. She is the author of How to Build a Pharmacy Consulting Business and host of the ElevatePharmacySummit.com . More information about Dr. Thielemier can be found on her website BTPharmacyConsulting.com
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