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Anderson calls on pharmacy leaders to continue campaign for recognition


SAN DIEGO “Deserve victory.”

Citing that simple and inspirational call-to-arms from Winston Churchill, NACDS president and chief executive officer Steven Anderson urged retail pharmacy leaders Monday not to let up on their long and hard-fought campaign for recognition and a full place at the healthcare table.

Addressing the Pharmacy & Technology Conference for the second time since joining NACDS as its top executive, Anderson spoke thoughtfully but forcefully about the need for vigilance and new grass-roots efforts by members as the industry savors its recent victories in Washington and in some state legislatures. The goal, he said, must be to change fundamentally the mindset and perceptions of powerful lawmakers and policymakers about what community pharmacy can accomplish as a full partner in the U.S. health care system.

“After grabbing Washington’s attention, NACDS is now capturing its policymaking imagination as well,” he said. “We need Washington to think and act anew, and creatively, about pharmacy’s role.

“We have big ideas that can sell in Washington: invest in pharmacy, and we can save on overall healthcare costs, and improve lives.”

Those ideas are embodied in a set of NACDS Principles of Healthcare Reform, issued in the spring.

Anderson reminded his audience that NACDS and the industry it serves have already scored some “major, bona fide wins” over the past year, most notably with enactment of the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008, or H.R. 6331, in spite of a veto by Pres. Bush. Among other effects, the bill postponed until October 2009 proposed cuts to the Medicaid prescription reimbursement program through the adoption of an onerous new payment system for generic drugs, based on a flawed calculation of the average manufacturer’s price of the drug.

“The AMP cuts were scheduled to take effect January 1 of this year, and we have delayed them until at least the fourth quarter of 2009,” said NACDS’ president. “With each day that the cuts remain stalled, pharmacy is spared $5.5 million. That’s $3.5 billion in savings that NACDS has worked to secure for you from Jan. 1, 2008, to Sept. 30th of next year.”

But pharmacy advocates achieved more with 6331. “With the passage of the Medicare bill—the same one that contained the AMP cut delay—we actually achieved three other victories,” said Anderson. “First, a requirement for prompt payment to pharmacies for Medicare Part D prescriptions. Second, a delay of the Medicare competitive bidding program for durable medical equipment, which will allow time to reform that program. And third, incentives for the use of electronic prescribing in Medicare.”

There have been other notable victories, as well. “In [military health benefit program] TRICARE, NACDS has preserved the right of military families and veterans to choose community pharmacy services,” said Anderson. “We delayed the new tamper-resistant paper requirement for Medicaid prescriptions. That bought some time for better implementation and better services for patients. And our work with partners in California delivered a delay of the electronic pedigree requirement for prescription drugs. That is a $90 million savings for members operating there.”

It will take a sustained campaign of grass-roots advocacy, public policy influence and many other efforts to

Anderson outlined three “political imperatives” that he said will be critical to success in the current political and policymaking environment:

  • Creating a “stronger and more robust” NACDS Political Action Committee to assist even more deserving federal campaigns;
  • Enhancing the function of grassroots outreach within the NACDS staff structure, building on the successful overhaul of the Government Affairs and Public Policy Departments and of the Marketing, Communications and Media Relations department;
  • Extending the industry ad campaign and its tagline, “Pharmacies. The face of neighborhood healthcare,” to rally NACDS member involvement in grassroots initiatives, including participation in a new event in Washington designed to bring “more white coats” to the steps of the Capitol.

“We will develop new and effective ways for NACDS members to literally put a face on our industry for their members of Congress,” said Anderson.

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