2016 Pharmacy Conference Circuit Summary

July 18, 2016

By Beverley Herczegh

It was a busy spring with a number of pharmacy conferences back to back. I was able to attend BCPhA, OPA, CPhA (combined with Rxa-Alberta), NPAC (Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada), London Drugs (LD) and Shoppers Drug Mart (SDM) in Toronto. I can offer this summary:

All the conferences had a strong focus on clinical and regulatory updates for practicing pharmacists, some with concurrent streams where delegates could select to focus on a specific area of interest such as business, clinical or practice. Provincial associations used the conference forums to educate and highlight key areas of change such as BC sessions on scrutiny of methadone dispensing pharmacies and modernization of reference based pricing or Ontario’s sessions on waiving of co-pays, policy changes, OPEN research and re-thinking MedsCheck.

CPhA was combined with RxA (Alberta’s association) for a very well attended conference (again, >600). Preceded by a “leadership summit”, the conference opened with “the Great Debate” where current topics of interest were addressed by a panel and then opened to the floor for comments and input. It was standing room only. The keynote, by Canadian astronaut (and musician) Chris Hadfield was inspirational and encouraged preparedness in the face of new challenges- a good message to the pharmacy profession. Chatter in the halls was about the need for an entirely new way to fund pharmacy along with the need for frontline pharmacists to step up and deliver. Not clear which will come first.

Hot topics across conferences included diabetes, biosimilars (at least 3 different sessions on this topic across association and retailer events), respiratory and practice change.

NPAC undertook a new conference format this year fashioned, it seems, after the American NACDS model. It was a 3 day “EXPO” that included a large trade show with considerably more GM (general merchandise) sponsors than in previous years. Attendance was said to be up from last year but the conference felt very poorly attended. A lot of the NPAC Expo content/speakers seemed to be from the US and in some cases statements made had no applicability whatsoever to the Canadian pharmacy landscape. Apparently NPAC plans the same format for next year but I hope they check in with sponsors as many indicated they would not be back.

It seems fair to say that after years of attending these conferences, often it is the same group at provincial association events. In some cases this results in a lower number of practicing pharmacists in the room- a key target for pharma clients. I am one of them- a pharmacist, yes, but no longer in active practice. The retail conferences are different from the associations in that actual frontline pharmacists attend and some sponsors report much better booth traffic at retail conferences such as the SDM or London Drugs events. Something to keep in mind when planning, depending on target audience

For more information contact Bev Herczegh, Director, The Pangaea Group