NACDS Regional opens with focus on policy, pharmacy’s expanding role

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores kicked off its Regional Chain Conference 2019 with a focus on direct and indirect remuneration, or DIR, fee reform at the Access Agenda opening session of the event, which takes place through Feb. 5 in Palm Beach, Fla.

"NACDS talks about our Access Agenda, and its three parts: offense, defense, and addressing the well-being of our communities. On offense, we are enhancing access to newer services. When we talk about defense, we are talking about preserving patients' access to care. And that means DIR fee reform," said Mark Panzer, NACDS chairman and Albertsons senior vice president of pharmacy, health and wellness. "The third area – working as partners for stronger and safer communities – includes helping to solve opioid abuse. This remains an important issue, where we have seen progress and where we remain committed."

Panzer noted that NACDS currently is equipped to "deliver the value that we as members expect, and need — even on the toughest of issues."

NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson led an interactive discussion including members of the NACDS senior staff regarding advocacy on DIR fee reform, broader reimbursement issues, opioid-abuse prevention and expanding pharmacy's scope of business.

"What we are not doing is just 'working the issues,'" Anderson said. "What we are doing is waging campaigns — tough campaigns. Working the issues is waiting for things to happen. Waging campaigns is making things happen, and doing so with everything we have — consistently, creatively, aggressively, passionately, cohesively, and as a modern political and advocacy organization."

In the pursuit of DIR fee reform and other ways to help reduce patients' out-of-pocket drug costs, Anderson emphasized building on the new 2018 law banning "gag clauses" that previously prevented pharmacists from advising patients when they can save money by paying cash for prescriptions rather than using insurance. He cited data from a Jan. survey conducted by Morning Consult and commissioned by NACDS.

"Seventy-one percent of voters are more likely to support a Congressional candidate who reduces out-of-pocket prescription drug costs by acting on pharmacists' recommendations," Anderson said. "Seventy-nine percent of voters support the gag-clause prevention law, and 66% strongly support it. Building on that, 86% of voters support pharmacists using their expertise to identify other policy opportunities to help lower patients' out-of-pocket costs."

In addition to action on policy issues, NACDS' leadership also emphasized the importance of chain-supplier collaboration in a rapidly changing retail environment. Panzer highlighted the work of NACDS' Retail Advisory Board, whose chain and associate members help NACDS focus on front-end topics and issues.

"They work hard to address how diverse companies can meet each others' needs through collaboration," Panzer said." They have helped to foster understanding about how regional chains can work with different types of suppliers. That thinking is helping companies reach common ground on partnership opportunities, setting strategies, and defining success."

Rebecca Bubel, 2019 NACDS Regional Chain Conference chair and Kinney Drugs senior director of store operations described her company's approach to pharmacy patient care, offering a testimonial of pharmacy's role as the "face of neighborhood healthcare." She also described the company's commitment to collaboration with suppliers to meet consumers' needs.

"To the regional chains here at this conference: take advantage of the ability to connect with your current business partners while establishing new relationships and seeking additional opportunities for collaboration," Bubel said. "To our vendor partners: provide us with innovative products that will help us become more efficient, more effective, and add value to our business. Let's work together to create win-win situations that will allow us to continue to grow our mutual businesses while meeting the needs of customers."