Given the challenges that plan sponsors and the benefits industry are facing, it’s time for the various players to embrace innovation, according to Mark Rolnick, vice-president of payor partnerships and plan sponsor innovation at Shoppers Drug Mart.

And pharmacies, Rolnick told participants at the Calgary Benefits Summit in April, have a key role to play.

“Pharmacy is not yet sought out as a potential solution. Think about the value we can offer. There is an opportunity to engage pharmacy. Pharmacies across the community, we believe, could be a resource to support plan design. What we’re seeing across Canada is the role of pharmacy expanding to assist more Canadians in managing their health.”

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And many Canadians agree, said Rolnick, pointing to a recent survey by Abacus Data that found more than 90 per cent of respondents felt pharmacists play an essential or important role in Canada’s health-care system. At the same time, more than 80 per cent agreed that allowing pharmacists to do more for patients would both improve health outcomes and reduce health-care costs.

With many benefits plans already having instituted provisions for generic substitution and prior authorization, plan sponsors need to find additional areas of savings, according to Rolnick. “You need to focus on managing the non-specialty spend, and that’s where pharmacy as a partner can really help,” he said, noting pharmacists can help plan members navigate tiered formularies. They can also, he added, assist with the management of step-therapy program when it comes to conditions like Type 2 diabetes.

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Rolnick also sees the pharmacy industry working with insurance carriers, employers and other stakeholders on making improvements to the system. “How can pharmacy work with the benefits industry to collaborate and keep drug plans sustainable?” Rolnick asked. “It starts with having conversations.”

Copyright © 2019 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on

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