2012 NPPA Conference Review, Part 2


By Michael J.W. Thomas, CPhT
NPPA Conference Moderator

This is Part 2 and the conclusion to this year’s NPPA Conference Review, as published in print in the October edition of Pharmacy Purchasing Outlook, the official publication of NPPA.

On day three of the 2012 NPPA Conference, and after the full buffet breakfast enjoyed by every attendee each morning, the attendees gathered in the Platinum Ballroom of Bally’s Grand Ballroom once more for a full day of educational presentations.

Kevin Hoehn, PharmD, MBA, BCPS, CGP, Pharmacy Clinical Coordinator at Faxton-St. Luke’s Healthcare in Utica, New York, brought the attendees present up to speed on the drug pipeline with his presentation, “Drug Developments in 2012 – Implications for the Pharmacy Purchaser.”  Keeping on top of the ever-growing drug approval market is a daunting task, and thanks to NPPA perennial Dr. Hoehn, NPPA is always kept up-to-date with the current new drugs for the coming year.

Next, Sharrell Alexander, MBA, Manager of Medication Systems and Operations & Bell Hoy Jr., CPhT, Outpatient Pharmacy Purchasing Manager, Ohio State University Medical Center/The James Cancer Hospital, Columbus, Ohio, gave what was in this writer’s opinion the most unique presentation of the Conference.  Presenting “Maximizing Your Hospital’s Wholesaler Relationship,Alexander, herself a former Contract Analyst and a Hospital Sales Consultant at Cardinal, and Hoy, responsible for several hospitals and clinics, “Stepped Up” their presentations, as they presented their lecture in “Tag Team” manner. Where the normal dual presentation is done with one speaker presentation, followed by the other, Alexander and Hoy both presented in tandem, feeding off each other’s energy and complementing each other’s talking points.  There was so much feedback and questions for their session that it almost ran into the next session.

After that lively session, the attendees adjourned into their respective rooms for the NPPA breakouts of the three major national Wholesalers.  Here, the attendees were apprised of the latest issues facing their distributors, and had the opportunity to speak to key people at their Wholesaler.  It, like the GPO Breakouts of Tuesday, gives Conference Attendees the unique opportunity to have their concerns heard by the upper corporate managers of their main suppliers, a feature unique in Pharmacy Practice Conventions.  The Wholesalers in representation this year were AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson.

The first of the 340B presentations this year was given at an invitation-only luncheon sponsored by Apexus 340B Prime Vendor Program.  Here the invited guests were brought up-to-date on the legal and procedural issues revolving around the 340B programs, and the issues facilities will be facing in the coming year.

The rest of the attendees took this opportunity to take a short reprieve and enjoy lunch at the several venues presented to them.  Unique this year was the option to not only enjoy the restaurant options at Bally’s, which were many, and of varying tastes and budgets, but also other nearby lunch options.  They included the restaurants at Paris Las Vegas next door, including Le Village Buffet at Paris Las Vegas, and dozens of options at the Miracle Mile Mall at Planet Hollywood Hotel, all within comfortable walking distance.  A smart attendee could walk to any of these options by traveling through the adjacent casinos while never having to face the heat outside on the Strip!

Back for the afternoon sessions, Debby Flannery, Pharmacy Purchasing Coordinator and new NPPA Advisory Board Member; and Lyle Matthews, PharmD, MAM, Director of Pharmacy Services, Buyer and Director respectively for Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, California, gave the presentation, “Hospital Pharmacy’s Challenges & Solutions with Offsite Clinics & OR/Anesthesia,” another heavily requested educational session by NPPA members.  Many of our members deal with areas outside the normal patient care environment, and hearing how others have handled different issues facing these areas is a skill set that is rarely shared, or even given an opportunity to be shared.

NPPA also encourages this type of presentation, where the key persons in the purchasing process share their perspective on the topic at hand.  It gives the attendees a fuller base of knowledge, and shares the administrative perspective of the Director against the practical perspective of the Buyer.  It also gives the Director the opportunity to see how their facility compares with others, both in their local area and nationwide, helping the Director better appreciate the work of their Buyer and NPPA’s contribution to their knowledge base.

After a full day of lectures and breakouts, it was time to re-visit the Vendor Exhibit Hall in the cavernous Gold Room of Bally’s Grand Ballroom.  This was “clean-up” time, as attendees visited vendors they had not time to visit the day before, and to get additional information from vendors they visited previously.  As happened the day before, snacks and refreshments were available to attendees, as was also the Mystery Gifter, surprising unsuspecting attendees with American Express Gift Certificates.

Also for a return engagement was Mila Albert, RPh, PharmD, Pharmacy Procurement Manager for Jesse Brown Veteran Administration Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois, who presented another poster in the Vendor Exhibit Hall, “Safety Stock Revisited – Managing Pharmacy Inventory with Drug Shortages.”  Dr. Albert was busy in the Exhibit Hall presenting her poster and explaining it to the many attendees, and vendors, who took an interest in her presentation.

Many attendees came away from the Exhibit with new contacts and plenty of material to bring back to their respective facilities, enough to hold them until they all return for next year’s Conference.  Thus ended Day Three.

Day Four, and the last day of the Conference began with a Continental Breakfast, then back to the Lecture Hall for the first of the day’s presentations, the Best Buyer Practicessessions.  These special sessions are where Pharmacy Buyers are given the opportunity to give short presentations on a topic for which they have a special passion, and to give any new speakers the opportunity to “dip their toe” into the presenter’s speaker pool in a friendly, less stressful environment.  This year, Paula Herrera, Pharmacy Purchasing Specialist for Rapid City Regional Hospital, Rapid City, South Dakota, and Outstanding Buyer of the Year for 2011 presented, “Pharmacy Purchasing for Multiple Hospitals.” Brooke L. Richards, CPhT, Business Specialist/Pharmacy Buyer for HD Goodall Hospital in Sanford, Maine presented, “The P & T Committee:  A Pharmacy Buyer’s Perspective.”

This reviewer was a little disappointed in the number of Best Buyer presentations this year.  While the presentations were of their usual professional quality, there should have been more.  The Best Buyer Practices sessions are NPPA’s method of cultivating its Speaker Bureau of future presenters for upcoming Conferences.  It has been the long-standing crusade of NPPA Moderator Mike Thomas to have as many Pharmacy Buyer presenters as possible for this unique National Pharmacy Buyer Conference, to this writer’s knowledge, the only one in the county.  Every year, NPPA provides topics of interest to the membership, and provides whatever tools prospective speakers need to give a professional presentation, short of doing the presentation themselves.  Later on in this article will be more information on the Best Buyer Practice Session.

The final presentation of the Conference was given by Dante Kazerounian, PharmD, CPh, NPh, Clinical Systems Pharmacist for All Children’s Hospital/Johns Hopkins Medicine in St. Petersburg, Florida.  His presentation, “Pharmacy Buyers’ Responsibilities & Challenges Related to a 340B Program,” was a “nuts and bolts” presentation, focusing on the tools needed to start a 340B program, and to provide a primer for facilities already in a 340B program to fine-tune their program.  This was an important session for Pharmacy Buyers both working on establishing a 340B program in their facility and for those Pharmacy Buyers needing pointers.

With the educational portion of the Conference officially over, it was time for some more housekeeping.  Tickets for the Qualified Grand Prize Drawing for a current/new NPPA Full Buyer Members were distributed.  One lucky random winner will get $550 for their facility and $550 will go to the pharmacy Buyer or a charity of the winner’s selection.  As the usual practice, a person not affiliated with NPPA or ineligible for the prize was selected to pick the winner.  This year, Dr. Kazerounian volunteered.  The grateful winner of the Grand Prize Drawing was first-time NPPA Conference Attendee and new member Adriana Lyons, Pharmacy Buyer of Methodist Hospital in Merrillville, Indiana.

After the excitement of the Grand Prize Drawing, the attendees settled down to give the NPPA Executive Board members present feedback on the Conference, and suggestions for next year’s meeting.

This concluded another successful NPPA Conference.  Thanks must be given to Event Supervisor Francine Morgano, who, although she was unable to attend, did the legwork setting up the Conference, and was in constant contact remotely by phone and email, with the rest of the NPPA staff onsite, and the Bally’s Conference and Catering Staff, putting out “fires” as they came up.  NPPA President and CEO Dale Kroll did most of the “heavy lifting” on site for the Conference, keeping the Conference on keel and acting as Ambassador to the organization, meeting and greeting as many members and attendees as possible.  Jonathan Hewlett NPPA Office Manager and Cathy Ravy, a former Pharmacy Buyer and part-time NPPA staffer provided onsite support for attendees, as also did the Convention Services Support Staff who have been with us for the past few years.

Attendees are reminded to check your CEs earned from this Conference with NABP’s CPE Monitor Program, the national clearinghouse for all states requiring ACPE-accredited education hours.  The CPE Monitor will transfer your hours submitted by ProCE to your respective states to ensure you have the proper credits for your state’s recertification, re-licensure, and/or re-registration.  If your credits have not been transferred to CPE Monitor, it is imperative that this issue be followed up, by contacting ProCE, CPE Monitor, or both.

Those attendees who do not need ACPE credits for their state, and are Certified Pharmacy Technicians, should log your CEs with PTCB in your personalized myPTCB space on their website.  By logging them in advance of your recertification, you are assured they will be there when it again comes time for your recertification.

No sooner had we packed our bags and headed back West, NPPA was already in the process of organizing the 2013 NPPA Annual Conference.  NPPA will return to Bally’s Las Vegas, on August 19-22, 2013, for another 4 days of education, networking, and fun.

In late December, early January, NPPA will announce a “Call For Speakers,” along with a list of topics as suggested by member polls and by the NPPA Advisory Committee.  If a subject you wish to present is not in that list, please suggest it.  As previously mentioned, the Best Buyer Practices Sessions is, in this writer’s opinion, is the most important sessions at the Conference.  Here, and only here, are presentations given for Pharmacy Buyers, by Pharmacy Buyers, in a friendly, non-intimidating venue.  New speakers can give a 15-20 minute presentation on a subject passionate to them.  The upside:  the speaker gets experience and confidence to try a more lengthy discussion in future Conferences while NPPA builds its Speaker Bureau.  The Speaker is compensated for their time and effort, the minimum being a comped Registration Fee, the most; well it can be very attractive.  The downside:  there is no downside.  It is a “win” for the Buyer, it is a “win” for NPPA, and it is a “win” for the membership, as peer education is networking in its purest sense.  Please consider offering your experience and expertise at next year’s Conference.

Lastly, do not make attending next year’s Conference as a last-minute decision.  Planning to attend now reaps many, many benefits.  By registering on the Early Bird rate when they are announced next year, there can be a savings of hundreds of dollars than if you were to register later on.  By budgeting for your hotel stay now, it will not hurt as much when it is time to attend.  The rate goes up slightly next year – $75 a night, which is still significantly lower than the triple digit rates charged by other conventions.  Airfares, also an “X” factor, can be researched, and booked as early as possible.  The earlier you book your flight, the more attractive your airfare could be.  Moreover, by planning now, you can take advantage of the various incentives offered to offset the expense of attending the Conference.  Visit theMember Incentives page on the NPPA website, PharmacyPurchasing.com, and see what opportunities are available for a savvy Pharmacy Buyer to finance their Conference. Members who have taken advantage of these incentives have more than paid for their Conference by participating.

For tips in training others in your responsibilities while you are away, this year’s attendees can consult the slide presentations submitted by Leanne Witt and Michelle Hurst for their presentation, “Training a New Pharmacy Buyer & Buyer Assistant.”  There was a link to this year’s slide presentation handouts for this year’s presentations sent only to Conference Attendees previously, so that you can refer to them for future reference.  That way, there can be no excuses for why you cannot attend.

Pharmacy Buyers continue to tell us that when they return to their work sites after a conference, they experience a rejuvenating lift from their attendance and interaction with dozens of their peers that extends well into the weeks that follow.  If you have not experienced that yet by attending, make sure you do next time.

The NPPA Conferences are presented for your best benefit.  Educational Opportunities, Social Opportunities, Networking Opportunities.  Where every smart Pharmacy Buyer in the country steps up to seize these opportunities and be there.  Will you?


Click HERE to read Part 1 of the 2012 NPPA Conference Review


 Join us at next year’s NPPA Conference, August 19-22, Bally’s Las Vegas.  Registration is expected to open January 2013; check back to our website’s home page (www.PharmacyPurchasing.com), for the official announcement.