For many years, the roughly 25,000 independent pharmacies in the US have maximized their buying power by joining cooperative buying associations, which function roughly the way group purchasing organizations (GPOs) do for health systems. Now, two of the larger ones—Independent Pharmacy Cooperative (Sun Prairie, WI) and Pace Alliance (Lawrence, KS) are joining forces, although both will retain their own corporate identities. Together, they bring the buying power of approximately 6,000 independent pharmacies.
“IPC is continually looking for ways to bring added value to independent pharmacy,” stated Don Anderson, IPC president. “Pace and IPC are respected leaders in the industry and we are proud to move forward together.”
Independent pharmacies have a bewildering array of options for group purchasing. There are 20-odd purchasing organizations counted by the Federation of Pharmacy Networks (FPN, which itself aggregates the buying power of the purchasing groups). The leading drug wholesalers have their own franchise or franchise-like groupings (allowing the pharmacists to retain ownership of their stores while participating in a national brand). Some wholesalers also offer pharmacy service administrative organizations (PSAOs) that enable the members to work as one entity toward pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and managed care organizations. Moreover, while both Pace and IPC have distribution centers (DCs) to handle deliveries to member pharmacies, both are backed by McKesson’s DC network.
For pharma manufacturers, the networks provide a point of contact to engage with multiple local pharmacies, notably for adherence programs or marketing campaigns. At least one of them (American Associated Pharmacies) has organized a specialty pharmacy (Ally Scripts) to provide back-office support for specialty pharmaceutical dispensing.