Z Archive) A Perspective From The Audience

One individual’s view on the difference between the PPO Conference and every other educational meeting


A Perspective from the Audience

While Las Vegas might be the excuse, Pharmacy Purchasing Outlook’s (PPO) Sixth Annual Networking Conference is the reason for coming to Las Vegas this May. It is the only meeting of its kind in the country, maybe even the world, where the focus is solely about buyers, to buyers, from buyers, for buyers.
I’ve attended dozens, maybe hundreds of Pharmacist-sponsored seminars and I have never really felt comfortable with the educational content of the meetings. No matter how many Pharmacists conventions I’ve attended, I still feel like an outsider. Sure, the program planners make special considerations to suit my needs. And many meetings have special sections where myself and all the other non-pharmacists can be herded into a room for the day. They try their best to make us feel welcomed, comfortable, but deep inside I all know all-too-well the reality of the situation:

I am a pharmacy buyer at a Pharmacists convention.

Nearly everything is geared towards the improvement and advancement of the Clinical Pharmacist. There are some discussions for the non-PharmD and the non-Pharmacy Director. There are even a few areas of interest for Pharmacy Technicians. But to that end, separate speakers are brought in, additional arrangements have to be made, etc. Sometimes even separate facilities altogether are arranged. For Pharmacy Technicians. But only if you’re lucky, very lucky will there be even one discussion for Pharmacy Buyers. The reality is this: a Pharmacist educational seminar/convention is for Pharmacists.

Alternatively, I’ve been to a few PPO meetings, so I’d like to share my impressions of the experience as I attended my first Conference a few years ago:

The first thing I notice is the people. Someone who acts as though I actually belong here greets me and hands me my Conference materials. I look around at the meeting hall. Others have gotten to the meeting hall before me. Some seem as nervous as myself. A number of attendees seem to be more at ease with the situation, obviously veteran PPO attendees. I grab a pastry on the complimentary breakfast table, pour myself some apple juice and take a seat in the rear of the hall.

At eight o’clock, the moderator approaches the podium and speaks:

Welcome to the Third Annual Pharmacy Purchasing Outlook’s Networking Conference.

After the few necessary formalities, the first speaker is announced. The person next to me gets up and approaches the podium. She looks no older than myself and SHE’s going to give a presentation? Surprisingly, she begins to discuss a problem that I have been wrestling with for two months. It seems her facility has had difficulties with the same situation and now she is discussing how it was handled there. As I listen, I realize that she is saying make sense. I sit up, grab my note pad and start scribbling down notes on how she handled this problem. And for the first time in quite some time I actually stay awake for the entire presentation.

Speaker after speaker approach the podium, and for the first time the topics are actually interesting! Not one lecture on the pharmaco-socio-economico-psychopathy of the latest WHOCARES survey on a cephawidget just entering its beta stage of testing. For once, my eyes did not glaze over as a mind-numbing lecturer drones on for an hour on what policy he implemented to get himself promoted. Instead, I get information on how to get myself promoted.

After a couple of rousing discussions on some red-hot purchasing issues, we break for lunch and head for the Vendors Exhibit Hall. Here is where the real difference in meeting philosophy is made apparent.

The Exhibit Hall is filled with scores of companies most you have dealings with, some you’ve never heard of. As I shuffle towards the first table, my head down as not to make eye contact because I’ve done this drill before. The vendor looks at my name badge, and decides how he wants to deal with me. If he thinks Im the token technician the Pharmacy sent for the day, looking for a free pen or some other giveaway, he’ll move toward another pharmacist at the other end of the table. If he thinks I’m a pharmacist, he’ll begin his pharmacology lecture on his product. Too many times I’d have to stop the vendor to declare my position as a buyer. Now he has to switch gears, and discuss with me the distributive portion of his presentation. He tries his best, but after talking pharmacology-speak to countless pharmacist attendees, he slips into pharmaco-babble more than once during his presentation. So to cut the session short, you hand him your card, and set up an appointment to meet a local rep after the Convention. Then you grab a pen and move on.

But at a PPO Vendor Booth, the vendor greets me, glances at my name badge, and immediately relates an anecdote about the time he was last in my area. After a brief bit of levity, he starts to discuss with me his product. But wait, hes not lecturing me on the half-life or the pharmacokinetics of the base salt of the drug no, he’s discussing with me release dates, cost, wholesaler availability what I need to know to purchase the drug. NOW he’s got my interest. We speak at length for five, six minutes. Then I tell him I need to get more information about his product, so he takes my card and we set up an appointment to meet with a local rep at my pharmacy after the Conference. The vendor then hands me a pen and a calculator that opens by itself and I’m on my way to the next booth.

I visit another couple of booths. Each time, I get information that I need: information on impending shortages, new drug releases, special offers. Finally I come to a booth where I meet a rep that I personally do business with. We greet each other, talk casually about whats new, then he informs me that a few of his other clients are joining him for dinner at that fancy restaurant in the casino the one that doesn’t display the prices on the menu and that he’d like to invite you also! What could be cooler than that? After the afternoon sessions are over, we meet, he introduces me to his other clients, we all exchange pleasantries, and then we spend the next two hours in casual/business conversation and treated to some of the best food that I’d never be able to afford on my salary!

Then next day, I’m feeling pretty confident of myself. I grab my pastry and my apple juice, move into the middle chairs of the meeting room, greet a couple of attendees I met yesterday, and settle in for another day of career-improving discussions.

That is the attraction of this meeting. If you’re interested in furthering your career in Pharmacy Purchasing, this is the only place to get that edge. This is the meeting where you are the main attraction, not the side-show.

This meeting is unique in the world. It’s attendees are subscribers, not members of an organization, and it is comprised solely of Pharmacy Purchasing Agents, Buyers and Vendors and anyone who shares the common background of handling the wholesale distribution of pharmaceuticals in a health care environment. Let that concept set in for a moment: no Pharmacy Director forums, no Clinical Grand Rounds, no Pharmacological Roundtables. This is a meeting geared specifically and solely for us, the Pharmacy Buyer and our educational needs.

This year, PPO’s Sixth Anniversary, is already looking to smash all precedent. This year, PPO is opening its doors even wider than before. Although PPO is open to any and all with an interest in Pharmacy Purchasing, this year’s Networking Conference is having a special open invitation to Pharmacy Directors, Supervisors, Administrators, etc.


Because for too long, the Pharmacy Buyer is pretty much on his or her own. Except for therapeutic decisions or formulary additions, not much communication goes between the buyer and administration. As long as he doesnt wreck the budget and keeps the pharmacy in drugs, what more does an administrator need to know? And that lack of knowledge is what keeps the buyer from being as appreciated as he or she should be. If your Administrator doesn’t have a clue how difficult it is for you to keep within your budget, or what it takes to keep the pharmacy in drugs and supplies, how can you advance your position? Sooner or later, that buyer gets an offer from another pharmacy or Drug Manufacturer that you’ve seen him talking at length with the rep for the past two months – and resigns, leaving you scratching your head wondering what happened.

That is why PPO is continuing BYOB – Bring Your Own Boss to the Conference. This not only gives your Administrator a better insight into what your job really curtails, but also helps put you and your Administrator on the same page of discussion when a problem arises. Maybe at one point in time your Administrator might have performed your job. Maybe he was even was promoted from your job. But that was – how many years ago? Things change. Concepts change. What was conceived as an impossible shortage situation ten years ago is very possible and happening right now. And you can’t explain it effectively because your administrator remembers what it was like fifteen years ago when he was the purchaser. Ask your administrator if he had to purchase extra drugs in December from certain companies because those companies close their manufacturing plants until the beginning of the year. As an administrator, he should understand why; he should still have that edge. If that edge is dulled or lost, how effectively can that person relay your concerns in your area to HIS superiors? And where does that leave you when you have an issue that needs to be resolved on a higher administrative level? The simple truth is this: the more your superiors know about your job, the better appreciation they will have for your doing it. That little truth hits home around Employee Evaluation Review time.

To this end, PPO has made the Conference accredited for Pharmacy ACPE credits.

PPO already has the necessary credentials for any pharmacy technician to acquire their PTCB credits. And this is for pharmacy technicians more and more pharmacy buyer positions are being filled with pharmacy technicians. What better way to get an edge over your competition than to have a few Pharmacy Purchasing connections of your own to start with? The network goes both ways you can benefit from a colleague who just recently got promoted to pharmacy buyer discover what it took for him to get the job. Find out the ins and outs of the profession. You need to get your PTCB CE credits anyway would it be more productive for you learning the pharmacological bioavailability of another quinolone or learning how to find out about drug shortages over the Internet? You make the call.


A few weeks after the Conference, I receive a large envelope from PPO. I open it to find a certificate stating the number of hours that will be credited towards my PTCB requirement for re-certification. Because I attended all the lectures, I find out that nearly all my CE requirements have been fulfilled for the year even the coveted Pharmacy Law credit!

So to recap You come to Las Vegas, see the sights, have some fun in the casino, get some serious networking in at the meetings, and get your maximum daily requirement of CE for the year. And a monthly newsletter! All things considered, it is the best investment in your career you could make. Make it a point to attend!