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NACDS to U.S. Senate: Pharmacies play vital role in delivering health, wellness solutions

NACDS provided a statement to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Subcommittee on Primary Health and Retirement Security’s hearing.

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores is reminding lawmakers that pharmacies and pharmacists have an important role to play when it comes to driving food is medicine initiatives, providing prevention and management services for chronic disease and delivering total health and wellness solutions.

In a statement for a Tuesday, May 21, U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Subcommittee on Primary Health and Retirement Security’s hearing, “Feeding a Healthier America: Current Efforts and Potential Opportunities for Food is Medicine,” NACDS said:

“The accessibility and clinical expertise of pharmacists and pharmacies lends very well to driving solutions that improve healthcare access, promote innovations, and mitigate preventable spending that results from suboptimal health outcomes. The unique footprint and infrastructure of community pharmacies should be leveraged in advancing healthcare solutions for the American people that prioritize outcomes, prevention, cost-savings, access, and equity.”

About 90% of Americans live within five miles of a community pharmacy and 86% of adults report that pharmacies are easy to access.

[Read more: NACDS report highlights role local pharmacies, pharmacists play in patient-centered services]

According to a Morning Consult poll commissioned by NACDS, 76% of adults in the U.S. support pharmacists helping patients to understand their nutritional choices and 73% support pharmacists helping patients prevent chronic disease such as heart disease and diabetes. Additionally, majorities of Democrats and Republicans alike see the importance of relying on pharmacies for services that Americans now expectand for services that can do even more to keep Americans healthy.

During the recent public health emergency, pharmacy interventions averted more than one million deaths, prevented more than eight million hospitalizations, and saved $450 billion in healthcare costs. In total, pharmacies have administered nearly 340 million COVID-19 vaccinations since the start of the vaccination campaign to address COVID-19according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and IQVIA.

Specifically, NACDS’ comments urge the importance of better leveraging pharmacies to help meet the evolving needs of the most vulnerable Americans, and recommend that the Subcommittee members consider:

  • Supporting access to pharmacist services through the successful passage of the Equitable Community Access to Pharmacist Services Act (H.R. 1770/S. 2477) in Medicare Part Band consider similar opportunities to foster beneficiary access to pharmacist services more broadly. Once enacted, S. 2477 would foster Medicare beneficiary choice to access pharmacist services for common health threats, like influenza and COVID-19, building on the effectiveness and broad reach of pharmacy-based care during the recent public health emergency, including in rural and underserved areas. Following the passage of this critical legislation, NACDS urges the Subcommittee to consider additional opportunities for pharmacies to serve the American people in the future, including to help combat rising rates of diet-related chronic diseases.

[Read more: NACDS honors pharmacists, pharmacy team members in TV ad]

  • Supporting food is medicine access through the successful passage of key legislation, including the Medical Nutrition Therapy Act (H.R. 6407/S. 3297), the Medically Tailored Home-Delivered Meals Demonstration Pilot Act (H.R. 6780/S. 2133), support for the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP) expansions and others. NACDS also looks forward to future opportunities for pharmacies and pharmacy teams to play a role in advancing access and uptake to key Food is Medicine interventions, including referrals for Medical Nutrition Therapy, medically tailored meals and produce prescriptions.
  • NACDS has undertaken two recent Food is Medicine projects as commitments to the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, and as part of the Association’s priority focus on health and wellness innovation.
  • The first is NACDS’ Nourish My Health campaign, a nationwide public education campaign aimed at highlighting the connection between eating nutritious foods and reducing the risk of diet-related heart disease, diabetes and cancer. To date, Nourish My Health has achieved nearly 175 million impressions, reaching Americans across the country, including rural and underserved populations. The campaign also has garnered nearly 8,000 responses to a nutrition security survey developed by the Food is Medicine Institute at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.
  • The second project is a collaboration between the Milken Institute and NACDS. The Milken Institute and NACDS are working with multi-sectoral stakeholders and experts to determine the policy, infrastructure, operational and programmatic steps necessary to leverage pharmacies in expanding access to Food Is Medicine interventions, especially for communities with high rates of diet-related disease and food insecurity. The learnings of this work, informed by 30 experts, will be available in early June 2024, and will be leveraged to inform and promote scalable implementation of accessible and sustainable produce prescriptions across diverse communities.
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