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ThinkLive 2015: The Importance of Forward-Facing Collaboration


AmerisourceBergen believes the power of community begins with talk that gets the blood flowing.

AmerisourceBergen believes the power of community begins with talk that gets the blood flowing, writes William Looney.

Global distribution services and sourcing leader AmerisourceBergen convened a record crowd of more than 500 industry executives from seven countries for its ThinkLive2015 annual manufacturer customer relations summit this week. Led off by President and CEO Steve Collis, the theme of the two-day “talk to me” event was the vital importance of forward-facing collaboration with pharma and others to address changing market conditions in health care, with emphasis on three specific priorities: advancing efficiencies in the biopharmaceutical supply chain; improving product access; and enhancing patient care. 

AmerisourceBergen President and CEO Steve Collis

In particular, interactive audience and panel debates at ThinkLive2015 led to a strong consensus on the need to tackle access challenges in health care if patient and societal expectations are to be met and innovation, growth and profitability for manufacturers preserved. “We heard how important the issue of product access is to the industry’s future,” Collis said in an interview with Pharm Exec.

To provide real-life grounding to these goals, the company singled out customers with nine separate recognition awards, wrapping up with a conference keynoter from Dr. Kent Brantly, who contracted the Ebola virus while treating patients in Liberia and was the first person treated for the disease in the US.

In an informal exchange with the audience, Brantly referenced the importance of coordination between research, clinical development and the drug supply chain in fighting Ebola, which he noted has culminated in the good news this week that, for the first time since the 2014 outbreak, no new cases of the virus have been reported in West Africa. As Brantly explained, it was more than just great science influencing his care, but other key industry-supported factors that go less reported. “The drug ZMapp arrived at my bed the day I was supposed to die. Pharma partnering and logistics helped make it happen.”

Dr. Kent Brantly at #ThinkLive2015 - ZMapp arrived at my bed the day I was supposed to die. Pharma partnering and logistics made it happen.

- Pharm Exec Magazine (@PharmExecutive) October 8, 2015

AmerisourceBergen executives and pharma customers quizzed Brantly on structural changes and reforms that might better address the access challenge and address future outbreaks of life-threatening diseases. His response emphasized prevention, preparedness and increased coordination between private industry, governments and the non-profit humanitarian aid sector, all focused on activities that bear directly on the welfare of patients in the field. 

Keynote speaker Dr. Kent Brantly

Best practices: the leading lights

That patient focus theme echoed in the ThinkLive2015 recognition awards segment. A key recognition award, Shaping Healthcare Delivery, went to the Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, a leading provider of oncology care services with a business mission to provide as much of this care as possible in a familiar, community-based setting the patient is comfortable with. Accepting the award, President and Managing Partner Dr. William Harwin referenced the “practical, problem-solving service partnership” it had with AmerisourceBergen in ensuring that its 97 facilities throughout the state obtained medicines for patients with predictable on-time precision.”

Other awards were given in the following categories:

• Manufacturer Excellence Award – Consumer: Becton Dickinson

• Manufacturer Excellence Award – Generics: Actavis

• Manufacturer Excellence Award – Brand/Specialty: UCB Pharma

• Trade Relations Leadership Award – Brand/Specialty: Peter Kamins, Merck and Company

• Trade Relations Leadership Award – Generics: Teri Coward, Teva • Trade Relations Leadership Award – Consumer: Megan Kotalic, Crossmark

• Best Product Launch Award – Brand/Specialty: Harvoni, Gilead Sciences

• Excellence in Product Value and Innovation Award: Jay Watson & Erny Claxton, United Therapeutics, for Unituxin, to treat neuroblastoma, a rare pediatric cancer

• Commitment to Patient Care Award: Carol Scholz, Johnson and Johnson.

It’s in the roots: A centered approach to growth

Finally, CEO and President Steve Collis gave the group a strategic update on AmerisourceBergen business objectives in each of the three priority areas. “What I like most about our business is that our customer relationships stay constant, even as we continue to grow every year in size, scale and impact.” Collis attributes this to a relentless internal emphasis on understanding what motivates the customer, and, ultimately, the patient, explaining that AmerisourceBergen’s culture of “intellectual confidence” is based on its ability to analyze and anticipate the “manufacturer’s mindset,” in finding new ways to jointly serve providers and patients, at every stage of the product cycle.

That mindset has been applied to the progressive expansion into several new business segments, exemplified by two multi-billion dollar acquisitions this year: MWI Veterinary Supply, the top distributor of drug products for companion and farm animals in the US and UK, and the pending purchase of PharMEDium Healthcare, a leading US provider of outsourced compounded sterile drug preparations, whose quality and safety aspects fit nicely within AmerisourceBergen’s proven capability sets -- actually, so proven and predictable the general public that depends on a secure medicines supply never hears about them.

Collis also referenced the solid progress of the company’s pivotal distribution and sourcing venture with Walgreens Boots Alliance, which in less than a year has integrated and transformed a highly complex generic drug supply and services chain to secure incident-free daily distribution of necessary medicines among some 8,300 pharmacy outlets in the US alone. “Once again, we’ve made this look routine,” Collis told the group, “a best practice in scale and efficiency that we now intend to apply to all parts of our business.”

Overall, the message behind these growth initiatives is simple, says Collis. “The most important strategic driver for AmerisourceBergen going forward is shaping the delivery of health care, today and in the future, together, in a visible way. We are proud to be your partner.”

Gina Clark moderates a panel of AmerisourceBergen's executive leadership team.

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