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Legislative limbo

DSN's editor-in-chief Nigel Maynard takes a look at the pace of congressional legislation on issues that are important to retail pharmacies, such as PBM reform and patient access.

I started my journalism career covering environmental regulations in the federal government and in Congress. Some of the players are still around, such as Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi, while others, like Orrin Hatch and Barbara Mikulski, are not. I have a lot of memories of that time, but one of the things I remember most is how little actually happens in government. Bills were introduced, hearings were held, votes were cast, deals were made, horse trading went on, but all that activity frequently resulted in stalemate.

That’s not to say that bills didn’t make it to the Oval Office for the President’s signature. Clearly some did–the easier ones like infrastructure, farm bill reauthorization and others. Sometimes a bill to rename an obscure bridge made it through. The harder policy issues were harder to bag.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing that the wheels of government grind slowly. The legislative process is often slow, just as the framers of the Constitution intended. We should be mindful of that when we start thinking about the pace of congressional legislation on issues that are important to retail pharmacy, such as PBM reform and patient access.

As we report in our cover story this month, optimism is strong that there finally might be movement on legislation to help the industry. As Chris Krese, senior VP of congressional relations and communications at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, told us: 

“The pharmacy issues are extremely bipartisan. We find that these issues are broadly supported by Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike, and we look forward to working with the Congress and with the administration to advance all these issues on a bipartisan basis.”

The industry is not just looking for leadership from Congress. Retail pharmacy executives and associations are hopeful that there will be continued movement on the state level as well. Some states–such as Arkansas, Florida, California and New Jersey–have all seen legislative movement, and there is hope that other states can build on that momentum to bring about change.

Sure, the industry would prefer to see Congress take the lead and set policy that makes it easier to serve patients in every state, but short of bipartisanship and a cooperative mood overtaking both chambers, the industry may have to settle for continued progress on the state level. Until Congress acts, it’s the next best thing.


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