Claire Biermaas of Cencora’s Corporate Partnerships Team on Industry Opportunities and Challenges in 2024

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Biermaas said her team is continuing to focus on product availability globally, as well as the massive growth in GLP-1 diabetes and weight loss treatments.

In an interview with Pharmacy Times, Claire Biermaas, President of Corporate Partnerships at Cencora, discussed the industry opportunities and challenges that she sees ahead in 2024. In particular, Biermaas addressed her team's role in supporting their partners, as well as how they are keeping an eye on drug shortages across the globe.

Claire Biermaas, President of Corporate Partnerships at Cencora

Image provided by Cencora

Claire Biermaas, President of Corporate Partnerships at Cencora

Image provided by Cencora

Q: Now that you’ve taken over for George Rafferty, how do you plan to maintain and evolve the culture of the Corporate Partnerships team?

Claire Biermaas: I’m grateful for George’s steadfast leadership and his success at advancing the Corporate Partnerships team in a way that helps provide stability for our customers and for our colleagues on the team. I’m proud to be taking the baton as the leader of the Corporate Partnerships team, during a critical moment for the future of the health care supply chain.

Over the past few months, I’ve hit the ground running by reviewing the needs of both our team and the broader marketplace to validate or make changes to our approach supporting our customers. Defending and maintaining our culture of curiosity, innovation and outside-the-box thinking gives us the ability to develop solutions that help our customers grow, while supporting even more patients.

Q: You’ve said that many of your customers are beginning to operate more like health care companies than traditional pharmacies. Can you discuss this and, specifically, how Cencora and the Corporate Partnerships team are uniquely positioned to support these customers as they grow?

Claire Biermaas: For our largest customers, we’re seeing this shift especially among retail pharmacies, large managed care pharmacies, grocery, big box, and mail order pharmacies. Given this, moving into 2024 and beyond, our team is focused on investing in the breadth of services we offer, beyond distribution, to our customers.

What does that entail? It means taking a fresh look across the Cencora enterprise for opportunities that meaningfully tap into each of our customer’s needs, especially as the health care landscape continues to rapidly evolve. Part of that approach means looking around corners – for example, deploying our market economics team for forecasting – ultimately helping customers predict their needs, before they need them, and deliver the solutions that will add tremendous value for customers and their consumers. This includes, as companies look to scale, innovative technologies and solutions that keep pace with growth while improving efficiencies across the entire supply chain.

We’re also looking at marketplaces more surgically, so we can manage inventory and our customers more precisely. Product availability is more than just securing and delivering products for our customers. It’s ensuring that we’re putting products in the right places to precisely meet our customers’ needs.

Q: Talk to us about 2024. What are some exciting developments on the horizon? Are there any challenges ahead?

Claire Biermaas: While there is an exciting pipeline for growth in 2024, challenges will inevitably persist. Most importantly, the continued pressure on product availability globally, not just in the US, is a chief concern. Product availability is a big deal – without products, our customers can’t operate and patient care could ultimately suffer. To anticipate these challenges, we play a critical role in trying to make sense of what might be happening geopolitically that may impact customers’ ability to get the products they need. Fortunately, Cencora’s global reach means we can lean on our colleagues across global markets for expertise on trends, allowing the flexibility and time to adjust our distribution model and avoid potential delays in the marketplace.

Q: What are some trends that you’re seeing among your largest customers?

Claire Biermaas: As customers start to look more like health care companies than traditional pharmacies, glucagon-like peptide-1s will be taking center stage. The growth in demand for these diabetes treatment and weight loss products is like nothing we’ve ever seen before. This class of drugs has the potential to not just impact the diabetes epidemic and the weight loss marketplace but become more innovative over time with fewer adverse effects and offer potential benefits to patients’ cardiovascular health. While costs and reimbursement models still need to be figured out, we’re watching this product category play out closely.

Q: How are customers responding to your efforts to invest in them?

Claire Biermaas: The Corporate Partnerships team is most excited about where we are when it comes to being trusted by large corporate institutions who have a tremendous impact on health care. Cencora is so much more than just distribution and wholesale, and for the first time, our customers are realizing the critical value we provide. They are also being more transparent with us and sharing their strategies so that we can develop deeper, more strategic relationships to drive value and growth together.

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