Baucus health reform plan draws backing of NACDS

12/8/2008

ALEXANDRIA, Va. —If Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus has his way, pharmacists could gain new prestige and visibility serving the nation’s beleaguered healthcare system. Electronic prescribing could become a nationwide reality sooner rather than later. And generic versions of bioengineered drugs could finally find a way to reach the pharmaceutical marketplace.

Baucus, D-Mont., issued a “call to action” health reform plan last month, laying out a set of principles he said should drive a badly needed overhaul of the costly—and often inefficient—U.S. healthcare system. In response, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores joined a chorus of general approval for the plan. And, in testimony to the committee Baucus chairs, NACDS also renewed its own call for a greater role and higher compensation for the profession.

Baucus proposed a set of guidelines aimed at cutting health costs, expanding coverage and improving Americans’ health and wellness through prevention and healthier lifestyles. Among his proposals were:

Utilizing pharmacists and health providers more effectively to promote drug compliance and healthier lifestyles;

Encouraging health agencies and providers to do a better job of sharing information on effective patient-care efforts, which could improve clinical decision-making and eliminate duplication of efforts;

Speeding up the adoption of health information technologies and electronic prescribing; and

Providing an approval pathway at the FDA for generic or follow-on biologic drugs.

Less aligned with community pharmacy’s interests is another element of Baucus’ plan: to promote greater use of mail-order pharmacies in federal health programs.

Nevertheless, NACDS expressed support for Baucus’ efforts. “In its Principles of Healthcare Reform, NACDS made the case that pharmacy services, such as medication therapy management, can reduce healthcare costs and help make patients healthier,” said NACDS president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson. “Chairman Baucus has demonstrated that he understands the value of pharmacy, and we look forward to working with him and others to achieve its untapped potential for the health of patients and the healthcare delivery system.

“We applaud Chairman Baucus for his proposal to achieve comprehensive healthcare reform, and we look forward to continued collaboration with him in the 111th Congress,” Anderson added. “NACDS stands ready to work with Congress and the Obama administration to assure innovative solutions to our healthcare challenges, utilizing the benefits of pharmacists.”

The group repeated that pledge in a statement submitted to the Senate Finance Committee on Nov. 19. In a hearing chaired by Baucus, titled “Healthcare Reform: An Economic Perspective,” NACDS urged Congress to expand the role of the pharmacist in order to improve access to healthcare services, control costs and improve patient outcomes.

In written testimony, NACDS reminded finance committee members of the many services pharmacists perform for patients and the roles they play in community-wide efforts to reach and educate patients, improve wellness and intervene in critical health situations each day. The group also called for renewed efforts in Congress to assure pharmacies adequate compensation for their efforts and to speed up the adoption of health information technology.

“Trusted by patients, trained as medication experts and accessible in virtually every community, pharmacist are a critical resource to our healthcare system,” NACDS reminded lawmakers.

Anderson praised Baucus “for leading the charge on healthcare reform,” and urged that “pharmacies can and should play a key role in revolutionizing health care.”

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