Pandemic Response, Pharmacists’ Role Among Key Topics at 2021 NACDS Total Store Expo

Drug Topics Journal, Drug Topics October 2021, Volume 165, Issue 10

This year’s Total Store Expo identified opportunities for growth and facilitated collaboration between retailers and manufacturers.

With lingering COVID-19 effects and responsibilities, including the CDC’s plan for offering COVID-19 booster shots to the public starting now, it is more important than ever that pharmacists collaborate with industry to expand services, and provide patient care.

That was one of the key takeaways from the 2021 National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) Total Store Expo (TSE), which ran August 23 through August 25.

Related: NACDS Presenters Discuss Top of Mind Pharmacy Trends, Forecasts

NACDS Chair Colleen Lindholz, president of Kroger Health, noted that retailers, suppliers, and health care providers should be working together to push through the pandemic and prioritize patient care, she explained.

The 3-day virtual conference was geared toward retailers and manufacturers and designed to find fitting business partners and build valuable relationships. The interactive virtual platform was tailored to each participant and offered both retailer and exhibitor resources, as well as a marketplace exchange. Retailers and manufacturers used personalized, functional dashboards to discover new product trends, collaborate within teams, and schedule meetings.

NACDS TSE included 2 sessions featuring industry experts who presented the challenges, trends, and opportunities that have been top of mind for pharmacies given the quick pace of change within health care and the pharmacy industry.

In Session I, Steven C. Anderson, FASAE, CAE, IOM, president and CEO of NACDS; Colleen Lindholz, NACDS chair and president of Kroger Health; and Mark M. Zandi, chief economist and cofounder of Moody’s Analytics, discussed valuable insights on current economic issues and successes that have influenced pharmacies over the course of 2020 and 2021. Talking points included NACDS initiatives, such as a bold new approach to public policy issues, as well as legislative successes over the past year.

“So far in 2021, we have seen over 60 individual improvements in state laws and how pharmacy teams can serve people,” Anderson noted during the session. For example, NACDS’ own efforts and collaboration with the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) helped land a major win in the US Supreme Court––Rutledge v Pharmaceutical Care Management Association. The unanimous decision upheld that states had the authority to prohibit pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) from reimbursing pharmacies at a lower rate than what pharmacies pay to fill prescriptions. The ruling has created a ripple effect of new state efforts to do the same, Anderson said.

In that session, Lindholz discussed the changes to the pharmacy industry that have been witnessed during this pandemic.

In Session 2, Wendy Liebmann, chief executive officer and chief shopper at WSL Strategic Retail; Doug Long, vice president of industry relations at IQVIA; and Scott Biggs, director of supplier services at IQVIA, expanded on the retail and industry trends that pharmacists should be aware of and incorporate into their practice.

The COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a wholly new shopping experience, according to Liebmann. “The pandemic changed the shape of retailing,” she said. “Shopping occurred in a completely different environment. How and when a shopper decided to shop and how a retailer attracted and provided for the shopper evolved at supersonic speed.” But the new retail landscape isn’t an end in itself, Liebmann explained. Now retailers must ramp up innovation through the 2021 shopper’s lens.

The presentation included interviews with real consumers whose goals included saving time and money and reducing stress. In response to these consumer needs, Liebmann suggested, retailers should work on creating a more efficient shopping experience. Offering more checkout counters, self-checkouts, and contactless pay; placing essential products in a convenient location; and having curbside pickup were some of her recommended solutions.

Long and Biggs discussed the latest pharmaceutical trends, services, issues, and forecasts for the industry. Their presentation touched on COVID-19 case and death counts in the United States, which had been on the rise through the end of the August (and have been decreasing through September) but were nowhere near the numbers experienced in 2020. COVID-19 vaccination rates peaked in April 2021, declined through July, and are again on the upswing, according to Long. As for the demographic of vaccinated individuals, an estimated 90% of senior citizens have had 1 dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and roughly 80% have received both doses.

Regarding those who have not received their COVID-19 shot, the data showed that individuals between the ages of 20 and 55 years have been least likely to get vaccinated. In addition, “People who have been vaccinated tend to be lower-income people in high-density [housing] situations,” Long said. According to IQVIA’s data, the White population has received the least vaccinations. “…The Black population and Hispanic population [particularly] have really stepped up and gone out and got their vaccinations in the last 14 days more than the White population,” Long noted.

Long and Biggs additionally touched on the upcoming influenza (flu) season and potential impacts of the pandemic. In 2020 the flu season in the United States was virtually nonexistent, mainly due to COVID-19 precautions. For 2021, the presenters highlighted data from Australia’s flu season, which spans May to November. Although 71% of the Australian population received their flu shot last year, only 45% did so this year. “We’ll have to see, but my feeling is [the United States is] not going to reach the vaccination levels of last year, maybe by a considerable amount,” Long said.

For more insights, features, and interviews from NACDS TSE 2021, check out the NACDS Total Store Expo 2021 spotlight on DrugTopics.com.