NACDS president issues call to action to aggressively advocate on behalf of community pharmacy

ALEXANDRIA, Va. Steve Anderson, National Association of Chain Drug Stores president and chief executive officer, issued a call to action to attendees of this year’s Pharmacy & Technology Conference to aggressively advocate on behalf of community pharmacy. Anderson called on those affiliated with pharmacy care to become active with the issues and to stay active.

"An association is only as strong as its members and any campaign needs willing foot soldiers. We have to speak with one, consistent voice about the value of pharmacy -- to policymakers, to legislators, to opinion leaders, to educators, to the media and to consumers," he said. "We, in community pharmacy, will never earn the influence we need or the respect we deserve if we don’t do a better job of telling our story. With federal and state governments making nearly half of all healthcare payments in the U.S., and in an industry literally shaped by government rules and regulations, the biggest mistake we can make is to communicate too little."

"NACDS is making changes. They are designed to fully leverage our numbers to communicate the value of pharmacy. Another goal is to demonstrate the extent to which misguided policy decisions threaten Americans’ access to pharmacy services. Given that next year marks the 75 th Anniversary of NACDS, we will have an opportunity to reflect on the past. But, more importantly, we must look to the future," said Anderson.

Anderson invited attendees to join in NACDS’ work to shape the debate on policy issues, demonstrating the work of community pharmacy to enhance health care, while battling against counterproductive policies. He cited U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt’s nationwide initiative for better health care at lower costs, entitled the Four Cornerstones: interoperable health information technology, the measurement and publishing of information about quality of care, the measurement and publishing of price information, and promoting quality and efficiency of care.

Anderson applauded the underlying idea, but commented, "Collaboration with the federal government must be a two-way street, and the government is prone to veer off track. The government cannot talk about the cornerstones in one breath, and then put forward policies that fly in the face of the objectives."

"We’re committed to delivering value. But laws, regulations and governmental reimbursement rates should not undermine and ignore the value and potential of community pharmacy. NACDS would rather be working with health officials as partners than waging battles, but sometimes battle we must."

Anderson highlighted NACDS’ successes that are already in line with Secretary Leavitt’s cornerstones. NACDS has been cited for its role in educating seniors about Medicare Part D.

Anderson also highlighted NACDS’ role when it comes to technology.

"NACDS has been a leader in promoting electronic prescribing through our association with SureScripts. Our member pharmacies have led the industry in adopting this technology and encouraging physicians to use it.

Anderson called the cornerstones worthy of collaboration with NACDS, but at the same time noted a specific example of contradictory policy. He blasted Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ final rule to implement Medicaid prescription pharmacy reimbursement provisions of the Deficit Reduction Act.

"The government establishes Medicaid prescription reimbursement for pharmacies on a basis that is far removed from actual costs; and it intends to publish this flawed information on the Internet, which could mislead the health care system and consumers about the prices of their necessary prescriptions. So, we’re supposed to provide prescriptions through the Medicaid system below cost and put this on the Internet—and that’s good policy?" said Anderson.

Despite this misstep, Anderson looks forward to working with Secretary Leavitt to help accomplish the goals set forth in the cornerstone plan.

Concluding his remarks this morning, Anderson said, "I hope that we can count on your input and participation so that we together find opportunities in challenging times."