JP at large: Well, bite my tongue

November 7, 2005

I belong to the Vermont Pharmacists Association (VPA). It is a fine organization. The officers encourage us to become politically active. The association puts on periodic meetings with interesting CEs and always a great lunch. I'm glad I joined, but I know very well that a small pharmacist group from the second smallest state can have only limited impact.

I belong to the Vermont Pharmacists Association (VPA). It is a fine organization. The officers encourage us to become politically active. The association puts on periodic meetings with interesting CEs and always a great lunch. I'm glad I joined, but I know very well that a small pharmacist group from the second smallest state can have only limited impact.

When VPA criticizes Big Pharma for giving mail-order outfits preferential pricing, they send us a polite letter blowing smoke. How about the PBMs? When an individual state comes calling, they don't even look up from their bean counting. How about Medicaid formularies? What if all 50 states united in designing the formularies? Big Pharma would pay attention.

You see if a drug company can't get its premier drug on the Vermont Medicaid formulary, it makes only a small dent. State organizations can only do so much. What we really need is a vibrant and active national organization that unites all of us.

This is just not good enough in an era when you better have a handle on the PBMs. You better be doing something about mail order. We need someone, on the national level, who understands the dangers we face. Most of these issues are third-party/PBM concerns. How about patient choice of pharmacy? The right to dispense a 90-day supply with a decent profit? Mandatory mail order? AWP minus too darn much! Claims that are denied? I don't have enough room here to list all of them.

There is a national R.Ph. organization I've been against for decades. I hated that regular employee R.Ph.s could not be voting members. That honor was restricted to drugstore owners and pharmacy managers.

They used to call themselves the National Association of Retail Druggists. I hated the word druggists. I wanted pharmacists. Gimme a break, I was young. It was only in the last decade that I realized I'm just as much a druggist as I am a pharmacist.

I got my way. The group changed its name to the National Community Pharmacists Association. It has a nice ring to it, doesn't it! National. I like that. We need national. Community. Most of us have been community pharmacists for our entire careers.

I have changed my mind about NCPA. It is the one group that is clearly fighting for the continued viability of the profession to which I have dedicated my life. I care a lot when I see the PBMs actively trying to relegate us right out to the fringe edges of the who-gets-paid-what pool. As far as I can see, NCPA is almost all alone in this battle. It is in the trenches fighting for all pharmacists, not just owners.

Right now, I don't belong to any national organization. I might join. If I do, it will be NCPA, and I don't care that I can't vote. Think about it.

THE AUTHOR is a community pharmacist. He lives in Stowe,Vt. Please e-mail him at jpgakis@hotmail.com
and send a copy to us at drugtopics@advanstar.com
. Also check out his new Web site at http://jimplagakis.com/.