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NACDS: Pharmacy and health care go hand in hand

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BOSTON — Characterizing National Association of Chain Drug Stores members as a “band of reformers,” association president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson called on attendees at the NACDS Pharmacy and Technology Conference here to remain advocates for the role of pharmacy and pharmacists in the brewing national debate on health care reform.

In his remarks, Anderson reviewed a long list of NACDS achievements dating back to November 2007, when the association drew attention to the pivotal role pharmacy plays in the nation’s health care system in a letter to the presidential candidates that was published in The Washington Post.

“This opened our campaign to promote pharmacies as the face of neighborhood health care,” said Anderson. “Pharmacy and health care go hand in hand.”

Anderson also pointed to the contributions of NACDS members who have testified before congressional committees, including Dennis Wiesner, H.E. Butt Grocery Co. senior director of privacy, pharmacy and government affairs and the chairman of this year’s pharmacy conference.

Last year, Wiesner appeared before a legislative panel to present the industry’s view on the impact of the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services’ regulations and programs on small health care providers.

Also at the conference, NACDS chairman Andy Giancamilli urged his colleagues to renew their commitment to innovation, despite current economic challenges.

Giancamilli, who also is chief executive officer for the Katz Group North America, said that a dedication to be innovative in such areas as electronic prescribing, electronic health records, health and wellness, in-store health clinics and medication adherence will help the chain drug industry achieve its potential for the ultimate benefit of the public.

“There is another reason I want to speak about innovation: It is to deliver a strong message to Washington and to state capitals that the profession and the industry of pharmacy should be empowered to help deliver accessible, affordable, high-quality, patient-centric care,” he said.

Anderson noted that one avenue NACDS followed to deliver such a message was its recent RxImpact Day on Capitol Hill, part of the trade group’s strategy to move advocacy to the next level by enhancing its grassroots initiatives and by bringing “white coats” to Washington, D.C.

“On that day in June, more than 150 pharmacy advocates from 30 states met with more than 180 congressional offices and with senior staff at the Department of Health and Human Services,” Anderson noted. “These advocates included pharmacists, company representatives, pharmacy educators and students, and state pharmacy associations.

“We made a huge splash for pharmacy. RxImpact Day will be a cornerstone of NACDS’ advocacy,” he added.

Anderson said the progress that NACDS has made can be attributed not only to the actions taken by member companies and individuals but also to the working relationships that NACDS has forged with such groups as the National Community Pharmacists Association, an organization he called “our brothers and sisters in reform.”

He pointed out that much of the common ground between the two groups was established three years ago through the formation of the Coalition for Community Pharmacy Action.

Despite NACDS’ success in bringing its principles of health care reform before policy makers, Anderson and Giancamilli acknowledged that significant challenges continue.

“I must tell you candidly: The Deficit Reduction Act [DRA] remains a major catastrophe,” Anderson said. “This law was enacted [in 2005] before many of us joined NACDS, and we have been tasked with attempting to fix it.

“The DRA’s Medicaid pharmacy reimbursement cuts under the average manufacturer price [AMP] model will reimburse pharmacies at below cost for many generic drugs,” he explained.

Although the implementation of the reductions has been postponed because of a legislative day and a court injunction, Anderson stressed the need for a long-term legislative solution and for Medicaid AMP to “remain on the radar” of congressional leaders.

In calling for continued innovation, Giancamilli referred to President Kennedy’s 1961 call for Americans to devote personal, material, technical and financial efforts toward landing a man on the moon, despite thin resources at the time.

“Innovation remains essential today if we are to thrive tomorrow,” Giancamilli said.


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