Northwell's Chief Pharmacy Officer Dr. Onisis Stefas on minimizing the effects of drug shortages

Alia Paavola - Print  | 

Onisis Stefas, PharmD, MBA, serves as the vice president and chief pharmacy officer for New Hyde Park, N.Y.-based Northwell Health, overseeing the pharmacy service line for the health system's 23 hospitals and 750 outpatient facilities. 

In his role, Dr. Stefas also manages operations at Northwell Health's central pharmacy and for-profit subsidiary Vivo Health. Dr. Stefas is also a clinical assistant professor of pharmacy at St. John's University in New York City. 

Dr. Stefas joined Northwell Health in 2010 as the director of pharmacy and clinical services at Long Island Jewish Hospital in New York City. Prior to Northwell, Dr. Stefas held leadership roles at CVS Caremark and Target. 

Becker's Hospital Review recently asked him to discuss the biggest opportunity for pharmacy this year, the impact of drug shortages on Northwell Health and a drug he is keeping an eye on.

Here's what he had to say:

Editor's Note: Responses have been lightly edited for length and style.

Question: What would you say is the biggest opportunity for pharmacy this year?

Dr. Onisis Stefas: The biggest opportunity in pharmacy this year involves investing in appropriate medication selection, including specialty medications, to promote the health and well-being of the patient populations served. Comprehensive efforts toward improving medication utilization will add value by improving patient outcomes and reducing the total cost of care across the continuum. Systems designed to measure clinical and financial outcomes should be leveraged to quantify this investment in pharmaceutical care.

Q: How, if at all, have drug shortages impacted Northwell Health's approach to prescribing and dispensing drugs?

OS: We have successfully minimized the impact of drug shortages in our organization through interprofessional collaboration. An interdisciplinary approach to clinical decision making has been established to promote evidence-based medication use and ensure medications are allocated to appropriate patients. Systems have been built to demonstrate real-time inventory, thereby improving supply chain transparency. 

Q: Is there a specific drug coming in the near term that you have your eye on?

OS: The drug I have my eye on is Zolgensma, which a single-dose gene therapy used to treat spinal muscular atrophy in children less than 2 years old.  Despite the costly upfront expense, it may revolutionize treatment for those diagnosed with this debilitating disease.

Q: What advice would you offer other pharmacy leaders when it comes to achieving formulary compliance and controlling drug spend?

OS: Leverage subject matter experts in diverse areas of practice to achieve evidence-based consensus. These physician champions serve as conduits to communicate formulary selection criteria across the service line and gain system-level pharmacy and therapeutics committee approval.  Formulary preferences and clinical decision support are employed in our computerized provider order-entry system to promote appropriate medication selection and reduce drug spend. Concurrent medication use evaluation with review by our enterprise-level P&T committee is essential for identification of inappropriate utilization and development of corrective action plans.

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