Chain drugstores must get more involved in state and national political debates over Medicaid and a Medicare Rx benefit, urged NACDS president Mark Griffin at the group's Pharmacy & Technology Conference.
Chain drugstores must flex more of their community pharmacy muscle in order to influence state and national policy debates over such critical issues as Medicaid budget shortfalls and a possible Medicare prescription drug benefit, urged the chairman of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.
Since they fill two billion scripts annuallyrepresenting 70% of all Rxs filled in the United Stateschain drugstores should be the most influential players in pharmacy delivery today, said NACDS chairman Mark Griffin at the recent 45th annual Pharmacy & Technology Conference in San Diego. And chains should wield that influence in any public policy debate about pharmacy and prescription benefits, he said.
"Retail community pharmacy is alive and well; but, too often, we just don't have enough say in the matter," said Griffin, president/ CEO of Lewis Drugs, a regional chain based in Sioux Falls, S.D. "Nobody knows better how health plans, drug formularies, and public policy affect the delivery of prescription drugs where it matters most: to patients at the pharmacy counters. It is time for us to use that power, individually and collectively, to better influence legislation, regulation, and public opinion. Now is the time to fight back."
Griffin noted community pharmacy's recent success in Washington, D.C., when NACDS and its members helped defeat four Medicare Rx benefit bills that included a starring role for pharmacy benefit managers. But chains can't afford to rest on their laurels as PBMs continue to undermine community pharmacy, states are assaulting Medicaid reimbursements, and some in Congress have decided that community pharmacies are secondary when it comes to serving the Medicare population.
"Our job is to make sure that legislators, regulators, and opinion-makers know that pharmacy care equals better patient care," said Griffin. "Without it, the whole healthcare team suffers. We cannot settle for vague promises from politicians when, working together, we can pursue policies that really help community pharmacy and the patients we serve."
The chain drugstore industry has its challenges on Capitol Hill, agreed NACDS president-CEO Craig Fuller, but NACDS has moved to create initiatives that showcase the chain industry as caring, accessible, and strong.
As proof of the industry's commitment, Fuller pointed to the recent partnership of Together Rx and NACDS' Pharmacy Care Alliance to expand senior access to the discount Rx card created by seven drug companies. He also noted the creation of Pharmacies of Promise, giving young people an opportunity for pharmacy internships and work-study programs; the Sun Safety Alliance to educate consumers about the importance of sun safety and the dangers of skin cancer; and PharmacyCares/RxSmart to promote safe and effective use of medications and the R.Ph.'s role in maximizing drug therapy.
"Our daily mantra goes something like this," Fuller said. "Our programs will expand your reach, improve communications, bring more consumers into stores, sell more products, and broaden and strengthen the patient-pharmacist relationship. We're getting better at working together but we need to get better still. A strong chain drug channel is essential but it's a collaborative effort. We're here to work hard for you but we need for you to be partners with us."
In other developments at the NACDS conference:
A pain management partnership was announced by Purdue Pharma and the American Pharmaceutical Association to educate pharmacists and pharmacy students about appropriate pain management, provide tools and resources to help pharmacists prevent Rx drug abuse, and establish guidelines for pharmacists to work with pain patients. The program will also create a community pharmacy residency program in pain management.
The NACDS on-line initiative ChainDrugStore.net opened its product-related marketing and merchandising network to independent pharmacies and individual chain stores. More than 30 drug companies now use the on-line resource to keep community pharmacy clients abreast of product news.
The Schwarz Pharma Leadership in Pharmacy Award was presented to Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R, Mo.) for her efforts to promote a meaningful Medicare Rx benefit. The NACDS Harold W. Pratt Award was presented to Frank J. DiLascia, Schering Laboratories' v.p. of trade sales and pharmacy development.
Carol Ukens. Time to fight back, urges NACDS.