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NACDS President and CEO Steve Anderson Talks About the State of Retail Pharmacy and 2023 Annual

Retail pharmacy is hoping to build on the success and momentum of the past few years.
Nigel F. Maynard
Editorial Director
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Drug Store News: Please describe the state of pharmacy today.
Steve Anderson: Pharmacy is a brilliant success story for the American people. NACDS released an ad in April 2020. We pledged that during the pandemic pharmacies and pharmacy teams would serve America with lights on, doors open. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pharmacy teams got more than 300 million COVID shots to armsand 50% of them in underserved areas. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association, pharmacy saved 1 million lives, kept 8 million people out of the hospital and prevented $450 billion in healthcare costs. 

DSN: How is retail pharmacy evolving into a healthcare destination?
SA: About 15 years ago, NACDS’ polling found that Americans liked pharmacies a lot, but they did not equate pharmacies with healthcare delivery. That is why NACDS committed to advocating and communicating pharmacies’ role as “the face of neighborhood healthcare.” The people of pharmacy have delivered time and time againin national emergencies and in meeting individuals’ personal needs. Now, in the most recent poll that NACDS commissioned with polling firm Morning Consult, 86 percent of adultsand an astounding 96% of those 65 and oldersay pharmacies are “very easy” or “somewhat easy” to access. Pharmacies are the most accessible healthcare destination tested, because pharmacies keep answering the call.

DSN: How would you describe challenges and opportunities for pharmacies and pharmacists?
SA: Look at the extremely powerful fact that has meant so much to America during the pandemic: there is a pharmacy within five miles of 90% of Americans. From a joint session of Congress to major policy announcements, President Biden has said that many times. So, one opportunity is that pharmacies and pharmacists, with their accessibility and trust, can help to meet the health and wellness needs of Americansespecially those who have been left behind by the healthcare delivery system. However, the challenge is that unfair pharmacy reimbursement schemes continue to jeopardize pharmacies. It would be devastating for our nation to lose access due to the forced closing of pharmacies.

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Steve Anderson, president and CEO, NACDS

DSN: What are your expectations for the industry in the future?
SA: When I hear that question, I think first of the obvious opportunity, the obvious interest, and the obvious need for this industryretailers and suppliersto play an even greater role in the health and wellness of the American people. This is what the “NACDS 2023” initiative is all about: the future of NACDS and of this industry. We launched “NACDS 2023” last year to help NACDS advance the transformation of pharmacy, broader health and wellness solutions throughout the entire store, and health and wellness solutions that NACDS members make possible through their partnerships with health systems and other healthcare professionals. Simply put: it’s about the role of NACDS in keeping pharmacy at the core, while going beyond to advance the total store, to care for the total person. Think of it as “Pharmacy Plus.” We will talk about this during the 2023 NACDS Annual Meeting.

DSN: Please update us on where PBM reform stands and why it is crucial for patients and pharmacy?
SA: Reform is necessary to address what can be called “pharmaceutical benefit manipulation” by prescription drug middlemen. This is really important for patients, pharmacies, taxpayers, employers, communities, and the nation. PBM tactics are forcing patients to pay more for their medications, restricting patients’ access to medications prescribed by doctors, steering patients away from their pharmacies of choice, and threatening pharmacies and pharmacy teams. Today there is strong bipartisan interest in addressing PBM tactics in all levels and branches of government. NACDS is pushing for comprehensive reform that reflect our NACDS Principles of PBM Reform. 

DSN: In March bipartisan legislation was introduced in the House (HR 1770) helping to preserve Medicare access. Please explain why NACDS supports this legislation, why it is important for seniors and for the future of pharmacy care?
SA: The bill would help sustain seniors’ access to pharmacy-based vaccinations, testing and treatment for certain illnesses. NACDS serves on the Executive Committee of the Future of Pharmacy Care Coalition, along with member companies and allied associations. That Coalition is advocating strongly for the bill. The bill also is backed by approximately 200 groups representing patients, seniors, rural Americans, hospitals, health systems, pharmacists and pharmacies. As I mentioned earlier, an amazing 96% of those 65% and older say pharmacies are “very easy” or “somewhat easy” to access. It is important to leverage pharmacies, the most accessible healthcare destinations.