Industry Events Inform, Educate, and Build Connections

Monday, May 1, 2017

Marsha K. Millonig, MBA, BPharm

The American Pharmacists Association (APhA) and the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP) both recently held annual meetings. Nearly 6,000 people attended APhA 2017 in San Francisco, followed by about 4,000 people descending on Denver for AMCP’s meeting.

Throughout the seven consecutive days of meetings, there were dozens of educational sessions, inspiring and informing keynote speakers, challenging policy discussions, opportunities to see the latest and greatest offerings from vendors that support the spectrum of pharmacy, and plenty of chances for networking with colleagues from across the country and around the world.


Let’s start in the City by the Bay and take a look at some highlights from the “APhA 2017 – Making an Impact in Patient Care” conference. Sessions were organized by tracks, covering areas such as:

  • Clinical Patient Care
  • Educating the Educators
  • Health System Pharmacy
  • Pharmacy Law and Regulations
  • Pharmacy Management and Professional Leadership
  • Specialty Pharmacy

There were several sessions related to opioid use, including a keynote address on “Inside America's Opioid Epidemic: Pharmacists on the Front Lines” by Elliot J. Krane, MD, practicing physician and professor of anesthesiology, perioperative and pain medicine at Stanford University Medical Center. Dr. Krane explored the use of opioids in pain management and challenged our thinking about how we perceive the current opioid epidemic, tying the rise in opioid use to the lack of economic opportunity in some areas of the U.S.

There were numerous chances to identify ways to improve your individual practice, whether you were interested in a specific disease state (diabetes, cardiovascular, HIV, pain management); operational issues (billing, reporting, legal/regulatory); or general clinical practice (immunizations, transitions of care, drug pipeline).

With so many student pharmacists and residents in attendance, a number of sessions addressed pharmacy education. Topics such as constructive feedback, layered learning, and innovation in precepting all were designed to address the interests of those in academia.

Rounding out the educational opportunities were a dozen sessions on specialty pharmacy, including those tackling biosimilars, nuclear pharmacy, and research. The second keynote address looked at the concept of improving care by gaining a deeper appreciation of the individual. Leana Wen, MD, coauthor of When Doctors Don’t Listen: How to Avoid Misdiagnoses and Unnecessary Tests, lead a thoughtful session on ways to engage patients in valuable conversations.

APhA continues to lead the effort to obtain provider status for pharmacists. Beyond an update on the legislative activity — H.R.592 currently has 149 co-sponsors; S.109 has 33 — there were sessions on new value-based billing and reimbursement models and the use of technology to support new these models of care delivery and payment. The House of Delegates made a number of policy changes, addressing items such as drug disposal programs and the use of clinically validated blood pressure devices.


Moving on to Denver for the AMCP Managed Care & Specialty Pharmacy Annual Meeting, it’s worth noting that AMCP changed the name of its meeting to include the word “specialty.” It offered a half-day program titled “Specialty Connect” the day before the full meeting began. This year’s program focused on the role and utilization of precision medicine in oncology, management and value assessment of orphan drugs for rare diseases, and the use of big data to benchmark the quality of care.

Specialty topics were prevalent throughout the balance of the event.

The opening keynote session featured Derreck Kayongo, founder of the Global Soap Project and CEO of the Center for Civil and Human Rights. His inspiring presentation reflected upon his life from a young Ugandan refugee to a successful entrepreneur, human rights activist, and global health expert.

Educational sessions were also organized into tracks:

  • Business Trends in Managed Care
  • Specialty Pharmacy Management
  • Research and Its Practical Application
  • Formulary Management
  • Legislative and Regulatory
  • Contemporary Managed Care Pharmacy

Within business trends, sessions were offered on contracting with manufacturers; the evolving role of ACOs; affordability, including specialty copay programs; and the inclusion of prescription data in risk models.

For the specialty track, some sessions were disease-focused (multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis, oncology), while others looked at QALY (quality adjusted life years), biosimilar activity, and contracting. Attendees flocked to Doug Long’s always popular pipeline presentation.

Formulary management addressed medical marijuana, changes in e-prescribing, value-based reimbursement, and value assessment frameworks.

Within the legislative and regulatory track, attendees received updates on state and federal activity, were introduced to the lifecycle of a performance measure, updates on 340B programs, a discussion of the Enhanced MTM program by a speaker from CMMI (CMS’ Innovation Center), and a bipartisan review of the Trump administration.

The contemporary managed care track also looked at enhanced MTM, delved into fraud and abuse trends, introduced basics of mHealth (mobile health), and tackled the ethics of expensive treatments for terminal patients.

What’s listed here doesn’t really do justice to the breadth and depth of what both conferences offered but it does give you a sense of the issues that the industry is facing and the solutions being developed.

Marsha K. Millonig, MBA, BPharm, is president and CEO of Catalyst Enterprises, LLC, and an Associate Fellow at the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy’s Center for Leading Healthcare Change.

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