NCPA urges independents to use e-prescribing

November 7, 2005

Concerned that less than 1% of independent pharmacies belong to the SureScripts electronic prescribing network, the National Community Pharmacists Association has urged its members to get into the connectivity game.

Concerned that less than 1% of independent pharmacies belong to the SureScripts electronic prescribing network, the National Community Pharmacists Association has urged its members to get into the connectivity game.

More than 70% of chain drugstores are already able to receive electronic scripts from physicians and to send refill requests through SureScripts, the firm created by NCPA and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. Lagging far behind their chain competitors, independents must join the e-prescribing network or bug their pharmacy system vendors to become certified by SureScripts so they can participate.

"We created [SureScripts] for you," said executive VP-CEO Bruce Roberts, R.Ph., at NCPA's recent annual meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "Your colleagues in the chains are already doing it. We cannot be disadvantaged. You must establish your connection so that you can continue to enhance the physician and pharmacist relationship and participate in the additional services and enhancements that will be built on this national infrastructure. Independent pharmacy must be in a position to participate."

Getting up to speed with SureScripts was one of three challenges presented to NCPA members by Roberts. He also urged attendees to join the Community CareRx pharmacy network to serve Medicare patients in the Part D program. One of 10 national Medicare drug plans, CCRx will pay pharmacists to provide medication therapy management (MTM) services. NCPA has also created another company, Community MTM, to offer a systematized approach to the delivery of MTM by community pharmacists to the Medicare program and commercial insurers. (For more on Community MTM.)

CCRx is an "opportunity in our hands, instead of a burden on our backs," said NCPA president Tony Welder, R.Ph., who owns the Dakota Pharmacy in Bismarck, N.D. "We're going to use Medicare Part D to change the way the public and private third-party payers look at the drug benefit and the way they look at pharmacy," he said. "We're going to offer them a new model that demonstrates exactly how valuable, how cost-effective, how essential each and every one of you is to this nation's drug delivery system."

A perennial thorn in the side of independents, the pharmacy benefit management industry took its usual lumps at the NCPA annual meeting. Roberts urged attendees to become politically active and write checks to the NCPA-PAC and Legislative Defense Fund to counteract the PBM campaign to tilt the Medicare Part D playing field toward mail order and to work for passage of the Community Pharmacy Fairness Act. The bill would permit independent pharmacies to collectively negotiate Rx contracts, something long opposed by PBMs.

"Enactment [of the bill] would be a tremendous step forward for community pharmacy in leveling the playing field with PBMs," Roberts said. "The PBMs and their trade association are fiercely opposing this legislation. The PBM lobby lacks credibility, but you don't. We need your participation and commitment."

In official action, delegates approved resolutions that directed NCPA to: