April 2, 2021


Check out the inspiring stories from independent community pharmacies across the country at WeAreGNP.com.

Drug Topics®: Hi, I'm Gabrielle Ientile for Drug Topics® and here's the latest headlines from DrugTopics.com.

The FDA has sent two more warning letters to companies selling over the counter cannabidiol (CBD) products. The letters to Honest Globe and Biolyte detail myriad violations, which include misbranding their pain relief products and shipping out products without adequate control testing. The companies have 15 days to prepare detailed records and reconcile the violations.

That's the latest news from DrugTopics.com. Stay tuned for my interview with rich Tremonte about COVID-19 vaccine rollouts.

Today I'm speaking with Rich Tremonte, who is executive vice president and president of community and specialty pharmacy at AmerisourceBergen (AB). Rich is going to be discussing some key insights on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Rich, thanks so much for joining me today.

Tremonte: Thanks, Gabrielle. Appreciate it.

Drug Topics®: So, before we dive in, can you give our audience just a bit of your professional background and work with AmerisourceBergen and Good Neighbor Pharmacy (GNP)?

Sure. So, I've been at AmerisourceBergen now for 8 years. We have a new rebranding; we actually go by AB now, so we're all getting used to the new acronym.

And the first 5 years is really on the buying side of the business working with manufacturers to access product. And the past 3 years has been working, leading the community, especially pharmacy team, which has just been so exciting to work with all of our customers: from the largest customers like Walgreens, mail-order customers like Express Scripts, customers like Kaiser, as well as independent pharmacies, which has been really inspiring to work with the entrepreneurs in a small business and all the things that we can bring to them to help them succeed. It's just been wonderful.

Drug Topics®: So as you see it, what are some of the most pressing issues right now at this stage of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the US?

Tremonte: Yeah, I think at this point, it's fairly clear that demand is outweighing supply. I think everyone wants a COVID shot at this point and Biden marked - his administration marked May 1 to be the day when he hopes that everyone will be eligible to get a vaccine, so we're very excited about that.

Right now, it's a bit of an odd time, we have a lot of jurisdictions getting different amounts of products, doing their own kind of priority lists. I know where we live in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, it's very different sign up versus Philadelphia, or the surrounding counties. So, it's really based on where you live in terms of how much access you have to the products. But our hope is within the next - May 1 is not far away at all - the next month or so, this will really open up and everyone will be able to go out and get their vaccine and we can start getting back to normal.

Drug Topics®: And for community pharmacists specifically, what are some of those most important issues here?

Yeah, I mean, we continue to see just over the last year, demand has skyrocketed at certain times at certain moments. And community pharmacy is at the heart of all of this. And if you think about it, community pharmacists never left. They continue to stay, as well as physicians and many other health care providers, do continue to stay in their stores and service their customers in many different ways.

And now, you're just seeing all the impact that they can have on society. And I'll admit, it's been even bigger than I would have ever thought to see how we are relying, whether it was the Trump administration or the Biden administration, how we are relying on pharmacists. And pharmacies to do so much, not just with the vaccine, but all standards of care to help with these patients during the pandemic.

And, and even if it's not a directly a COVID patient, if you're a diabetes patient, you're still impacted in how you go to the pharmacy and how you interact with a health care provider because of COVID.

It's really been great to see the impact they're having, and we hope this will be a platform for pharmacies to continue. We don't know if this will be a one-time vaccine or it's going to be every year. Will it be with the flu shot? How will it be reimbursed? All of these questions remain, but I think what is happening community pharmacy has just been a beacon of light of what they can do.

Drug Topics®: And what has AB’s role been amid this pandemic? And how has it been evolving over these very quickly changing landscapes here?

Tremonte: Yeah, like I said, about a year ago in March, almost exactly a year ago, we saw an increase we were shipping. To give you a sense of scale, we were shipping about a little over 4 million units a day out our doors, it went to over 6 million units a day, so a 50% increase. There were a lot of things with just behavior and worrying and folks going out buying product. We saw a lot of scripts go from 30-day scripts to 90-day scripts.

And then there was this evolution over time where we started to prepare the pharmacies and work to make sure we're on the Federal Partnership Program. So all of our elevate and GNP pharmacies, our Good Neighbor Pharmacies, are part of this network and able to get them access to product and vaccines, as well as making sure that we are they're able to dispense the vaccine once they get it.

So all the things that go along with that, the personal protective equipment (PPE), along the way, everything we do to make sure those pharmacies can thrive and really make this part of their business moving forward, so it's been an evolution.

We've all learned a lot together over the past years. It's been many town halls, talking to our customers, listening to our advisory boards, to get to the point where we are today. And, we as AmerisourceBergen are very ready to distribute the vaccine and our pharmacies are very ready to administer the vaccine.

We've really seen in the past 12 months, it's amazing sitting here 12 months later that we have access to a vaccine. Kudos to the pharma manufacturers for their fast response to this.

Drug Topics®: Thanks so much for joining me today.

Tremonte: Thank you, Gabrielle. Appreciate it.

Drug Topics®: Thanks for watching. For more expert interviews, visit DrugTopics.com.