Cover Story - 2003: NAUGHTY OR NICE?

December 16, 2002

Introduction to business outlook cover story.

 

COVER STORY

2003: NAUGHTY OR NICE?

If you think this year was bad, brace yourself for 2003. As Craig Burridge, executive director of the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York, said in a recent editorial in his association's journal, "2003 is not for the faint of heart."

What were the tough battles pharmacists fought this year that could get even worse next year? If not at the top of the list, cutbacks in Medicaid reimbursement certainly rank way up there. Given that state budgets are in dire straits and there's no relief in sight, don't be surprised if you hear of more chains threatening to pull out of the Medicaid market in 2003.

And how about the battle over prescription discount cards? To pharmacists' chagrin, more such cards were minted this year, and additional plastic could be in the offing if the Bush Administration gets its way with Medicare-endorsed Rx cards.

Then there's the battle over the Medicare drug benefit. Now that the midterm elections are over and the Republicans are solidly ensconced in Congress, could community pharmacists' worst fear—a drug program with pharmacy benefit managers in the catbird seat—become a reality?

As if these political challenges weren't formidable enough, pharmacists also had to contend with a faltering economy and a consumer confidence level that was the lowest in years. An indication of how bad things were was the filing of bankruptcy proceedings by one of the country's largest retailers, Kmart, this year. Compounding the problem were the reports about corporate malfeasance involving Enron, Imclone, Tyco, Rite Aid, and others. The upshot is that the stock market bottomed out, even for companies that were doing their job producing sterling results.

Against this backdrop flowed a steady stream of negative news about pharmacists—from their unsafe compounding practices to their questionable marketing techniques. It's enough to besmirch a profession that has up till now always ranked at the top in ethics and public esteem.

The industry can only hope that the stock market will revive next year, but things could remain rocky, with the public still spooked by the threat of war with Iraq.

To find out how pharmacists are reading their tea leaves for 2003, Drug Topics mailed a questionnaire to 2,085 of its readers. Canvassed were 750 independent pharmacists, 325 chain headquarters executives, and 1,000 hospital R.Ph.s. Both independent and hospital pharmacists were selected on an nth name basis from Drug Topics' circulation list. Chain headquarters executives were culled from the National Association of Chain Drug Stores' membership directory. Some 27% of independents responded to our survey, as did 21% from chains and 25% from hospitals. What follows are results from these three groups.

 

Judy Chi. Cover Story - 2003: NAUGHTY OR NICE?. Drug Topics 2002;23:59.