Never in the history of the Cooperative have we added as many participants as in 2016. It was a record year with 78,314 new participants joining us from 34 new member groups. Totaling over a quarter million participants, National CooperativeRx has never been this large or had this much purchasing strength.
I would like to welcome all of our new members to the Cooperative, and thank all of our current members for their support and loyalty. Because of you, National CooperativeRx continues to possess the power to provide industry-leading services with great pricing backed by a strong contract.
Our newest 34 groups come in various types and sizes. From a small hardware store to a health benefits trust with tens of thousands of participants, each new group went through a thorough process to identify National CooperativeRx as the best solution to their pharmacy benefit needs. Cooperative staff provided education and advice on best practices in pharmacy benefit management, tailoring the implementation process for each individual group.
Due to the Cooperative’s 45% increase in size, National CooperativeRx gained the power to negotiate contract improvements mid-contract. We will report on this more as negotiations become solidified. Additionally, we continue to add staff. We added a strategic account executive in 2016, and this year we have already welcomed another pharmacist. The Cooperative is currently looking to add both a communications specialist and an administrative assistant to our team. These additional positions allow us to continue providing the high level of service our members know to expect from us, while furthering our educational efforts to both members and participants.
With a robust pipeline of new prescription drugs coming to market and price an ever-changing dynamic, it is more important than ever that we apply resources to identify and implement proper prescription drug management.
Meanwhile, the interest in joining our cooperative continues to accelerate. We have already established seven new members for 2017 — five more than we had at this point last year. As a not-for-profit and member-owned cooperative, our members can expect to continue reaping the benefits of this growth.
As the Cooperative grows, so does our strength in partnerships. One of the original founders of National CooperativeRx is The Alliance, and our symbiotic relationship resulted in even more groups joining the Cooperative last year. We now share 43 groups; 18% of our new members last year are also Alliance members. Just another benefit of partnering together with a focus on bettering the health care industry.
Thank you again. I am excited to see where 2017 leads us.