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What is the Impact of Inflation in Pharmacy and How to Combat It

Posted on Sep 27, 2022 by Brandon Russell

A pharmacist getting medication out of a refrigerator

The core rate of inflation climbed to 6.3 percent in August, which continues the six-month trend of the highest rate of inflation the United States has seen in 40 years. The current core rate of inflation is more than triple the average rate seen the 10 years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Both consumers and businesses are struggling to find, and pay more for, goods and services than they did six months ago due to increased inflation and ongoing global supple issues. Neither current inflation trends nor ongoing supply chain issues show any sign of resolution in the near future. 

Pharmacies are not immune to the impacts of current inflation rates or price increases on the pharmaceuticals they distribute. Additionally, they are faced with external factors such as pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) to reduce the out-of-pocket costs for consumers and maximize return for manufacturers and PBMs at the pharmacy’s expense.   

The current economic climate is especially challenging for retail pharmacies and specialty pharmacies, which traditionally operate between 1.5 and 4 percent net profit margins depending on the types of drugs they distribute. Some specialty pharmacies with preferred status may see margins as high as 7 percent, but this is uncommon. 

So, how can pharmacies combat inflation, manage supply chain issues, and continue to support patients and maximize margins? 

Ensure efficient pharmacy operations to reduce waste
  • Counsel prescribers on efficient prescribing and tailor prescription amounts. 
  • Implement a dose-dispensing system to reduce errors. 
  • Manage stocked medication based on usage data. This reduces the upfront cost to purchase medications and the risk of wasting inventory due to expiration. 
Store medication appropriately to reduce risk of waste due to improper handling
  • Store medications requiring cold-chain storage in purpose-built medical-grade refrigerators and freezers designed to perform in the pharmacy environment and ensure stored medications remain safe and effective for use. 
  • Ensure all equipment used provides appropriate monitoring, alarm scenarios, and data logging to provide visibility into possible temperature excursions. 
  • In an environment where the pharmacy does not control the HVAC system, or when storing medications that require specific room temperature storage conditions, use a controlled room temperature cabinet. This reduces the risk of waste due to temperature excursions during times the HVAC system is not in use or when ambient temperatures may exceed appropriate ranges for medication storage. 
  • Utilize access controls on medication refrigerators, freezers, and storage cabinets to reduce diversion and waste due to improper handling. 
Utilize compounding as a pharmacy service 
  • Compounding pharmacies may have access to the base ingredients for prescribed medications at a much lower cost than name-brand and generic prescriptions available at pre-determined dosages. This access means not only is the cost to the pharmacy lower, but the cost to the patient may be lower, and medications may be compounded in doses and formats not commercially available to best meet patient needs. 
  • Since base components are available more affordably, compounding pharmacies are among the most profitable pharmacy types. Under the right conditions, net margins are as high as 20 percent for compounding-only pharmacies and between 8 and 12 percent for hybrid pharmacies. 
  • Adherence to federal regulation, such as the Drug Quality and Security Act (DQSA), and USP standards, such as USP <795>, USP <797>, and the soon-to-be adopted USP <800> are key to success in compounding pharmacies. These regulations promote patient safety and payers often look to compliance with these standards as requirements for reimbursement. 
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Purpose-built pharmaceutical equipment from Helmer Scientific provides performance, reliability, and efficiency to help pharmacies reduce waste due to improper medication storage or handling.  

Helmer equipment also provides features and technology to support pharmacy accreditation and regulatory compliance that impacts medication storage in the pharmacy. 

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Brandon Russell

Written by Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell is a senior marketing manager, covering the vaccine and pharmacy segments. He has more than five years of marketing experience.

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