The best and brightest in the industry have been on the hunt for the next big thing since the pharmaceuticals business took off in the 1980s.
From the blockbuster drugs like Lipitor to the more mundane, more generic drugs like Botox, it’s become a battle royale of sorts between big pharmaceutical companies and small pharmacy owners.
But in the past few years, the stakes have been raised.
There are now more than 500 Marine Pharmacies in the U.S., with more than 300 nationwide.
This week, a wave of new, less expensive generics hit the market.
It’s not just the big names and mega brands that are getting in on the action.
The industry is starting to see a lot of smaller-scale, community-based, low-cost options that may not even have a name yet.
And the big players are seeing their share of the pie increase, too.
The best pharmacy in the country is no longer the best pharmacy, either.
That honor belongs to a small shop called The Marine Pharmacists Association, based in New York.
Since it started in 1996, The Marine has been a leader in pharmacy-related advocacy.
This year, the association won its biggest victory yet.
That’s when the federal government passed a bill to give the Marine a bigger role in setting standards for prescription drug prices.
“The Marine is the single largest pharmacy in New Jersey, so it’s really important for the state,” says Lisa Riggs, a former Marine pharmacy director who now runs the nonprofit organization.
“But it’s not enough to be a pharmacy in its own right.
So how does The Marine get involved? “
I don’t think we’re going to see the same kind of consolidation as we’ve seen in other industries.”
So how does The Marine get involved?
“We’ve got a lot to do, but we’ve got our priorities straight,” says Riggs.
For starters, they’ve created a database of prescription drugs to help pharmacy owners set their own prices and the guidelines for what’s considered fair for a customer.
It also offers tips on what kinds of pharmacy products are the best for the communities they serve.
The organization also has a national network of other members.
“We’re a coalition of pharmacy leaders who all work together to advocate for this industry,” says Sarah Hulsey, who works as the association’s president.
“It’s very important to us that there is a common voice and a common set of priorities and standards, because it’s a business.”
So, what is a prescription?
A prescription is a drug that you can get from a doctor or a pharmacist.
They can be from a brand like AstraZeneca or a generic brand like Novartis.
The pharmacy should make sure the drugs are safe, and if they’re not, it should have a referral from a vet or a certified nurse-midwife.
The Marine does a lot more than prescribing these medications, however.
In the U-T San Diego Business Journal article that sparked the fight, The Marines argued that “price gouging” of generic drugs is a growing problem, and that the federal law should require a prescription for most new generics.
“That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be concerned about drug prices,” Riggs says.
That’s where the group’s new database comes in. “
In order to stop that from happening, the pharmaceutical industry needs to be made to answer for price gouge.”
That’s where the group’s new database comes in.
Its data shows that the average prescription drug price in the Northeast and Midwest, where The Marine is based, has increased by more than $200 a pill.
The group’s database includes prices for more than 2,000 generic drugs.
“With more than 20,000 prescriptions for generic drugs on the market, it shows that prescription drug pricing is a real issue,” says Hulysse.
The problem, she says, is that these drugs aren’t always in stock at pharmacies.
The marine pharmacy also collects prices for generic medicines that are in the market for $1,200 or less.
For example, if the generic is in the process of being released, but not yet on the shelf, the Marine Pharmacist Association has an idea for what that generic will cost.
“Sometimes, if a patient is having an emergency and the pharmacy isn’t able to make a prescription, they’ll have a call from a hospital emergency room, or someone else will be in the area to buy it,” Hulseys says.
But if the patient is in a rural area, she notes, they may have to travel a long distance to get it.
“So they’re a real cost to us,” Rigs says.
In a recent editorial, The New York Times’ editorial board criticized the pharmaceutical companies for charging “too much” for generics, and criticized generic companies for “pushing a few products that