- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 13, 2000

Two generic pharmaceutical associations are merging in the face of the heating debate regarding prescription drug coverage.

The Generic Pharmaceutical Industry Association and the National Pharmaceutical Alliance of Alexandria will merge within the next two months, locating at least temporarily in GPIA's office at 1620 I St. NW.

A third association, the National Association of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers, of Ronkonkoma, N.Y., chose to remain independent, but is leaving the door open to a future merger.

"It's recognition that we need a strong trade association to be part of the debate that's coming up on prescription Medicare coverage, prescription pricing," said Paul Bisaro, chairman of NPA and president and chief operating officer of Barr Laboratories in Pomona, N.Y.

The merged group will represent suppliers of 90 percent of all generic prescriptions written and refilled. The associations represent manufacturers, bulk suppliers, contract researchers, labs, distributors and consultants.

The groups have had merger talks before, but they failed because of personality conflicts or geographic disagreements, said Agnes Varis, president and chief executive officer of Agvar Chemicals in Little Falls, N.J. She served on the unification committee for GPIA.

"We found that we were duplicating a lot of effort," she said. The three organizations "were working together, but on an ad hoc basis."

After NPA formed a government relations committee a few years ago, Ms. Varis said, the groups frequently made joint statements to Congress and regulatory entities.

In addition, many companies were joining more than one of the trade groups, making it expensive.

Tom Gibson, who acted as facilitator for the merger talks, said it will be easier for both the associations and legislators to deal with each other.

"This is a unification that will be roundly applauded on the Hill and by regulators," said Mr. Gibson, president and chief executive officer of Association Management Bureau in McLean.

He said also that all of the two associations' employees would be kept on. The groups' presidents will remain as well, though their future roles are not clear. A new president has yet to be named.

Association ed

The American Society of Association Executives and Virginia Tech are establishing a graduate program in association management at the university's Northern Virginia center in Falls Church.

The master of science degree in hospitality and tourism management, with a concentration in association management, is the first such program developed after ASAE decided to pilot association studies with universities.

"We have matured enough as a profession that we need a system and overview," said Todd Wurschmidt, ASAE's vice president of professional development. He said the industry needs an accepted standard of core competencies, which university programs will help to frame.

Mr. Wurschmidt said ASAE will provide association executives to teach classes or serve in an advisory capacity for the program.

Mr. Wurschmidt, who will serve as a liaison for the program, is splitting his time between a 15-year tenure as the executive director of the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police and ASAE. He will come on with ASAE full time in July or early August, he said.

Mahmood Khan, director of the hospitality and tourism management program at the Northern Virginia center, said it made sense to have an association graduate option so close to Washington.

"Since we are offering our program here and there are several thousand associations in town, we thought this would be a proper place for offering this kind of a program," he said.

Membership focus

The American Hotel and Motel Association is changing the name of one of its departments from allied relations to membership, and expanding its efforts.

The department formerly dealt just with vendor members of the D.C.-based association, a federation of state lodging groups. Now it will also focus on faculty, military and especially student members.

"[Students] are our future hoteliers and future members," said Karin Mastrangelo, director of membership.

The association has 900 allied members, who Ms. Mastrangelo said used to be served by different AH&MA; departments.

"If we consolidated everybody under one department, we could service everyone better," she said.

The association held focus groups and did a survey of hospitality students to see what they wanted out of the trade organization.

As a result, the group hopes to create an internship bank allowing resume and job postings and also to foster more networking between professionals and students.

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