(Editor’s note: The following article written by Steven Anderson, president and CEO, National Association of Chain Drug Stores appeared on Medium’s website January 31st.)
NACDS and member companies fielded media inquiries this week about the demand and supply of surgical masks amid coronavirus fears.
This shows yet again that consumers think of pharmacies when they think of accessible solutions to health problems of many different types. The authorities think of pharmacies, too — especially when the health problems are potentially epidemic in scope.
Make no mistake, if coronavirus develops into an epidemic, pharmacies will fulfill their role with everything they have. Pharmacies have proven their dedication and effectiveness across diverse threats and emergencies.
Still, the questions that started pouring into NACDS and pharmacies this week prompted me to think of other recent story lines affecting pharmacies and the patients they serve. I thought about some of the other questions that should be asked by the media, by the authorities, and by Americans.
In addition to asking whether pharmacies have ample supplies of surgical masks, these questions merit attention as well:
Will pharmacy reimbursement models sustain the viability of pharmacies, and maintain this key aspect of emergency response?
Pharmacies are closing their doors because they are being expected all too often to dispense medications at a loss. Reductions in pharmacy access, particularly for the underserved, would prove devastating for health and wellness. Reduced access also would decimate our nation’s emergency response capabilities. These factors need to be considered, and acted on, as the nation and states look for relief from direct and indirect remuneration fees, and broader pharmacy reimbursement crises.
When will pharmacists be able to practice at the height of their education — and not just during times of emergency?
It is time to unleash the accessibility, education, professionalism, cost-effectiveness and quality of community-pharmacist-provided services. NACDS just submitted comments to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with seven specific recommendations that should be among the nation’s preventive health priorities for the next five years. Public health crises are very serious, and so, too, are personal health and wellness crises that could be prevented through a greater reliance on pharmacies.
I am glad that various audiences look to pharmacies in times of need. Times like these should also serve as reminders about the need to prioritize the viability and vitality of pharmacies in public policy, so pharmacies can continue to focus on the health and wellness of Americans.
Steven Anderson is the president and CEO of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.