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Bryant sees ‘make or break time’ as industry fights for recognition


SAN DIEGO Following a string of partial victories in Congress on issues that still must be resolved with permanent solutions, the need within the community pharmacy industry to get fully engaged in the policymaking process at the federal and state levels has never been greater, National Association of Chain Drug Stores chairman Warren Bryant said Sunday.

Bryant, who is chairman, president and chief executive officer of Longs Drug Stores, opened the NACDS 2008 Pharmacy & Technology Conference here by urging industry leaders to join the organization’s efforts to build a strong and permanent presence on Capitol Hill and in state houses across the United States—and demonstrate more effectively pharmacy’s real value in a cost-effective, patient-centered healthcare system.

“This is a pivotal time in our industry, and we, here today, have the opportunity to explore the new trends and technology that will help shape this industry now and for the future,” Bryant told NACDS members. “This is also a critical time in pharmacy as in this election year—and with a new administration … soon to take office—we are seeing the beginnings of a debate that could lead to landmark changes in health policy and health care.

“I believe it will be a watershed era for pharmacy,” he added. “If there is one thing you take from this conference, it is that you must, as pharmacists and pharmacy professionals, get involved in the healthcare discussion with your payers and legislators to assure they understand the full value of retail pharmacy.”

The NACDS chairman called 2008 “a make or break time for those of us who run retail pharmacies and for our many partners throughout the industry.” It is a time, he said, of paradox, with “incredible strides in medication therapy and improved patient outcomes because of pharmacy,” a medical system “that vests more and more faith in pharmaceuticals,” and a pharmacy practice “taking on increasing importance in health promotion and disease management.”

Nevertheless, Bryant reminded listeners, “In the face of all of this, we are still, time and again, asked to defend and justify the value of what we do.”

Pharmacists themselves, added Longs’ top executive, are “increasingly concerned about the heavy hand of government and insurance companies in the business, and how reimbursement policies impact the practice of pharmacy. They want, and deserve, recognition and respect for the work they’ve put into their training and the work they do every day.”

Bryant unveiled plans by NACDS for a new campaign to build the case for pharmacy’s value through advertising, sustained lobbying and education efforts, grass-roots efforts by local pharmacy chains and other efforts. “NACDS is already involved in several efforts to communicate the value of pharmacy, including the Coalition for Community Pharmacy Action, a great alliance between chain drug stores and independent drug stores that is working to aggressively address many of the most pressing issues facing retail pharmacy. And there are plenty of other industry groups and efforts addressing a broad range of pharmacy access, funding and finance issues,” said Bryant. “What I’m asking is that you get involved in one of these campaigns and make involvement a part of a culture that we must create for the good of this industry and profession.”

In his opening address to NACDS members, 2008 conference chairman Chris Dimos laid out a set of principles that he said must form the bedrock of pharmacy’s renewal. “In these challenging times I think we have to bring ourselves back to some very key values that can at least set us up for success,” said Dimos, who is president of pharmacy operations for Supervalu. Among them, he said, are passion, focus, urgency, standards and integrity.

“We’ve had continuous attack on our industry about, ‘Are they valuable, and are they necessary?’ And do we have the ability to prove that? And that’s where our passion and our focus ought to be,” Dimos admonished pharmacy leaders.

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