April 7, 2021


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®: Can you tell us about the Federal Retail Pharmacy program and how AB and GNP fit into that?

Tremonte: Sure. So, this is a program with Walgreens and CVS and the big chains who have been administering vaccines for some time now.

This is a program where, GNP is a chain, a banner for AB that our pharmacies carry and Elevate is the pharmacy services administrative organization (PSAO), so there's over 5000 members between Elevate and GNP. And so many worked tirelessly around AmerisourceBergen to make sure that our GNP and Elevate customers were on the Federal Pharmacy program.

We are, at AmerisourceBergen, a network administrator. And what that means is we work with the pharmacies to ensure we are getting their orders, getting their allocation. So, when the time comes, when their jurisdiction opens, we're able to get them the product that they need.

So, it's just been wonderful to see independent pharmacies now be on the playing field, where they're getting access to these vaccines. And we know in over 50% of the zip codes in the US, there's an independent pharmacy in that zip code. So, they really have a far reach, there's over 20,000 of them, as well as all the great work that our chains are doing as well as our health systems.

Drug Topics®: So, on the topic of challenges, can you discuss drug shortages or other challenges in distribution and some solutions?

Tremonte: Sure, yeah. We spoke about there's a shortage right now, but we're hoping it's short lived throughout the pandemic.

Over the past year, there's been different products that have been on shortage, on and off. Just some things like hand sanitizer or paper products, as well as medicine. There were different things that went on shortage.

But if you look today, I mean, we've now distributed over 170 million vaccines in the US, which is just remarkable, especially given the special handling requirements. So, I really do think we're in a good place.

We actually saw 230 pharmacies that were Elevate or GNP pharmacies pulled up into phase 1. And those 230 pharmacies are now dispensing, or administering, I should say, the vaccine. And our hope is by May 1, we'll have all 1500+ of our pharmacies having access to the product.

There's certainly been shortages over the past year, but many of the items - I don't think anyone's having a problem finding hand sanitizer or any of those things today. The same thing is going on with many of the medicines, we're continuing to see more and more access to the product.

And we are hoping for the summer, we'll really be in a place to start to plan for what will this look like next year. I mentioned, will this be part of the flu vaccine, will be a separate vaccine, will pharmacies continue to play a role? Obviously, we're advocating that they will. But that's really the next phase of this, is going into how does this become part of our normal life, where we can vaccinate folks every year just like we do a flu vaccine?

Drug Topics®: And GNP features a lot of really impressive inspiring stories from independent pharmacists. Can you share some of your favorite anecdotes?

Tremonte: Yeah, there's so many and I actually jotted a couple notes for this one just so I make sure I know some of the names.

There's so many we talk about on WeAreGNP.com our website there's a section called Fearless Pharmacy where, for the past year, we've highlighted many, many pharmacies and what they're doing in their communities. I jotted a couple down.

So just 3 - Adam Bayer of Hillcrest pharmacy in Texas. He talks about receiving the vaccine at 3 o’clock and starting to administer the vaccine at 3:30.

More locally in the Philadelphia area where we are, Chichi Momah of Springfield Pharmacy is working with the local government getting the vaccine to underserved communities. It's just an inspiring story. There's a lot written about her.

Alessandra Ochoa of Ochoa’s Pharmacy talks about a woman coming in and saying the Hail Mary in Spanish while she's receiving the vaccine.

So, you think about, we all are running different businesses, but it's just wonderful to think about the products that we're dispensing, and we're getting out in the market and how it's truly helping people. And it's almost feels like a movie at times when you're administering a vaccine and saving someone's life. It's just amazing. And I think sometimes maybe we lose sight of that.

And it's been nice to get back and get grounded and see what exactly are we doing, what exactly are we trying to make happen in the market and those stories inspire the pharmacists who come to us and they tell us their stories, and we highlight them.

But it also inspires people in our distribution centers. And they know when you go to any AB distribution center, they know that what they're handling is going to a patient eventually, it's not just a box. And that's really something that's built into the culture of AB that we're really proud of.

Drug Topics®: Rich, thank you for sharing those stories and thanks so much for joining me today.

Thank you, Gabrielle. Appreciate it.

Drug Topics®: Thanks for watching. For more expert interviews, visit our Expert Interviews section under the Media tab on DrugTopics.com.