ARLINGTON, Va. — NACDS president and CEO Steven Anderson delivered remarks this week intended to serve as the “rallying cry that this industry deserves.” The remarks served as a salute to the teams of NACDS-member pharmacies and suppliers who have served heroically during the COVID-19 pandemic, and as a call to action to government to ensure pharmacies can sustain and even enhance their vital role for individuals, communities and the nation.
“COVID-19 has served as a vivid reminder that our industry is nothing short of essential. Together, we are the crisis response kit of individuals, of communities, and of the nation. I hope this emergency has taught all of us, and our audiences, that this fact never should be taken for granted,” Anderson said at a virtual event hosted by The Emerson Group, WSL Strategic Marketing, Chain Drug Review, Mass Market Retailers and NACDS. The event carried the title, “Creating the Future of Retail…Together.”
Summarizing his remarks, Anderson said: “I will predict right now that the conversation at this event today is going to reveal several things. First, an industry that simply will not be outdone in meeting the needs of consumers, communities and our country. Second, an industry whose vigorous competition is matched and even surpassed by a spirit of collaboration and compassion. Third, an industry facing very real obstacles that demand our focus, yet tremendous opportunities that command our imagination. Fourth, an industry that – like every other industry – is operating in times characterized by extreme chaos. And fifth, an industry that is worth the re-dedication of all of us who are taking the time to reflect on it today.”
He addressed specific topics, including:
- Commitment to proactive advocacy: “The many aspects of NACDS’ work and accomplishments on COVID-19 have been a new aspect of the pro-patient, pro-pharmacy agenda which we have worked so hard to achieve over the past 13 years. That is the true definition of adaptability.”
- Progress in advocacy: “NACDS member companies have been showcased in the White House Rose Garden – answering the call for COVID-19 testing. The nation’s top health officials have proclaimed the crucial role of pharmacies and pharmacists. They’ve done so by extending authority for COVID-19 testing, COVID-19 vaccinations, and many other vaccinations. This is our industry. And we should be proud of it.”
- Breadth of COVID-19 issues: “Since the early days of the pandemic, NACDS has fought for policies to help keep manufacturing on-line and to keep transportation flowing. We’ve fought for policies that help make it possible for pharmacies to staff wisely and safely, to conduct their operations efficiently, to help patients stay on their medications in the face of spot drug shortages, to offer expanded options for the delivery of medications and consumer products, and to put patient care over paperwork. We have fought for the authorization of pharmacists to perform enhanced testing and vaccination services – and to be reimbursed for those services so that pharmacies can increase access for the public.”
- Flu vaccinations and beyond: “We looked [in NACDS’ polling] at the persuadables – those who have not yet made a decision as to whether they are going to get a flu shot this season. These persuadables tend to be younger, have less income and education. And the issue that they care about most – can you guess it? The economy. This goes right along with the message that it is critical to get the flu shot to help prevent a two-front war with the flu and COVID-19. We cannot get the economy going again, we cannot sustain job growth, if we cannot keep people healthy and keep America open. That affects you, and it affects your company, and it affects your team. Pharmacies have a huge role to play because of the trust that we have in our communities. We can build coalitions, we can build public trust, we can build a movement that will carry through COVID-19 vaccinations, through the ongoing fight against COVID, and into the future of our nation. Our industry – with its adaptability – can drive change.”
- COVID-19 vaccinations: “Nothing short of a case study is playing out – as we speak – about how the membership is aligning, and adapting, to play a key role in providing safe and effective COVID-19 vaccinations when they’re available. And that could ultimately play a significant role in helping our entire nation confront some of the chaos that has characterized all of our lives in this infamous year of 2020.”
- Healthcare disparities: “It is not lost on any of us that we are facing the most severe public health crisis of the past century – at a time when we are extremely divided, politically, racially and economically. Yet these divisions are issues on which NACDS has been focused for quite some time, and on which we’re re-doubling our efforts. COVID-19 is affecting some races and ethnic groups more than others. Even before COVID-19, we saw the same thing with chronic conditions, like diabetes, heart disease, and others. And we recognize the contributing factors: access to care, trust of the healthcare delivery system, and social determinants of health. I hope that as we continue to combat this insidious virus, and as we move forward, that we really commit anew to confronting the disparities in healthcare delivery. Our industry has a noble track record and an ongoing responsibility to help with that.”
- The need for further government action: “The reality is that we still have state and federal government policies that are counterproductive, complicated, and archaic – and that ultimately hinder what’s good for patients and consumers.”
- Pharmacy reimbursement policy: “In addition to addressing the barriers and adversaries that relate directly to COVID-19, we are still addressing some of the barriers that have jeopardized patient care for many years – like unfair reimbursement. Our polling shows us that about two-thirds of American adults are concerned about a troubling fact. And that fact is that too often health plans and government programs pay pharmacies below-cost and unpredictably for the medications and services they provide. This only worsens the problems of healthcare in our country.”
- Collaboration within NACDS: “What I have seen at NACDS and at other successful associations is a unique quality: that is the ability and inclination of competitors – tough competitors – to get together, find common ground, and get things done. In fact, chains tell NACDS that the ability to forge consensus and forge progress are central to the value that they expect from NACDS. That applies to achieving common ground on complex public policy issues. And it applies to achieving common ground with business partners during the NACDS Annual Meeting, NACDS Total Store Expo and NACDS Regional Chain Conference. And that is going to be more important moving forward than ever before. Why? Because the challenges of chaos will require it.”
A look back at key NACDS news and developments throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and prior emergencies is available on NACDS.org.