HealthPRO Canada News

March 30, 2021

CEO Blog: March is Pharmacy Appreciation Month!

Pharmacist filling a syringe with medication

There is nothing as poignant as a global pandemic to remind us how pivotal the science of applying the molecules found or made from nature and elements are in healing our bodies and preventing disease.

The formal science of pharmacy is a relatively new field of study that really is just over two centuries old. However, the practice of pharmacy is likely one of humankind’s oldest practicing sciences.  The first “healers” observed how nature sustained and healed other creatures and figured out how they might use plants and foods to prevent or mitigate adverse health conditions.  There have been colossal successes and tragic failures as we wrestled with figuring out that thin line between healing and harm.  The need for informed and expert Pharmacists is more important in our lives than ever as we now go beyond what nature supplies and create our own molecules to treat chronic and acute disease.  A look through the average medicine cabinet of older Canadians will tell you how pervasive medicine is in our everyday life. 

The role of the Pharmacist, and the Pharmacy Technician, in my lay observation, is perhaps one of the most under-utilized skill sets in clinical teams.  These professionals can take information for the “average user” and focus on individual needs.  They provide advice both to the patient and the healthcare team.  They can provide oversight on compliance and medication interactions which is difficult for the family doctor to monitor.  They are the bridge between patient and doctor whether in the acute care setting of hospitals, or the everyday community setting through our retail pharmacies.

If you look objectively at the data, Canada does very well on pharmaceutical pricing for a country of our size.  In the global context, we are a small market: that is, less than 2%.  However, through nationally and provincially coordinated efforts, we enjoy pricing that is typically better than markets many times our size.  HealthPRO, working with our members and governments, is tireless in ensuring the safest and most cost-effective medicines are made available.  This is one reason we are passionate about being a national voice for pharmacy on behalf of our members and their patients.

One of the ways we do this is to implement a strategy that promotes assurance of supply. HealthPRO’s split award contract strategy awards two suppliers for critical drugs. When one supplier experiences a supply disruption, there is an opportunity to provide another source which may be readily available. The strategy has so far mitigated over 80% of supply disruptions in recent years. It also ensures that diverse suppliers see Canada as a market that they want to remain competitive in serving. Our open market strategy enables suppliers to contract with HealthPRO as an additional supply to a sole source drug within Canada. With this strategy, HealthPRO members no longer rely on one supplier for more than twelve critical drugs.

We are staunch in advocacy that improves patient safety.  By using a strong coordinated voice nationally, we amplify the voices of our members to impact product and market changes that improve safe medication management. Our efforts have resulted in 94% of injectable products now having a barcode on the unit-of-use – up from 80% five years ago - which help ensure the right medication goes to the right patient.

During COVID, we have fought and continued to fight, for Canada’s access to critical drugs.  We have been successful in both preventing and mitigating severe drug shortages by working with our suppliers and members on strategies, alternatives and flexible sourcing.  We use the power of our members’ committed volumes and collaboration with Health Canada to keep the supply going. During the height of the pandemic, we were at risk of critical drugs being exported to other jurisdictions – the only way to protect the inventory for Canada was to guarantee national purchasing volumes. We worked with our membership to provide Health Canada with a list of critical drugs required for COVID patients, helping them to understand which needed to be fast tracked into the country.

We help by building up inventory. We now require suppliers to keep at least 90 days (up from 60 days) of inventory in Canada of critical medications to deal with a possible surge in demand.

In every crisis, there is pressure to ration scarce resources.  We ensure fair and ethical allocation takes place. Once we secure the critical medications for Canada, we work with suppliers to ensure that limited inventory does not go to a single site or province – but rather is allocated fairly across the entire country.

We are proud of the work most recently on RFP – PH21.  HealthPRO Awarded 300 contracts for Hospital Specific Injectables, totalling more than $200M. Given the critical nature of these medications, we have implemented new strategies to promote diversity and assurance of supply.

Pharmacy Appreciation Month is very dear to HealthPRO.  From our in-house professional pharmacists and technicians to our partners in our member hospital pharmacy departments, we are proud of the way we use the power of knowledge about the products, and trust in our decision-making processes, to serve the needs of millions of patients, safely, effectively and in a fiscally-prudent manner.

To all the Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians out there, we more than appreciate you… we trust you with our health and our lives, and we thank you for your dedication.