ALEXANDRIA, Va. — With Congress searching for ways to trim federal spending, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores is embarking on an advertising campaign to ensure that new lawmakers are aware of the role that community pharmacy can play in controlling health care costs.
“We have a very narrow and finite target audience,” says Chris Krese, senior vice president of marketing communications and media relations at NACDS. “The campaign is aimed at the 435 members of the House, the 100 senators and several members of the administration.”
Starting last week in conjunction with the annual NACDS RxImpact Day on Capitol Hill, the advertising campaign features drive-time spots on Washington-area radio stations plus ads in local publications and on such web sites as washingtonpost.com. The ads stress how good pharmacy care can prevent patients from having to use more costly parts of the health care system, reducing long-term health care costs.
The campaign will run off and on for the remainder of the year, Krese says. NACDS will intensify its efforts when Congress is in session and will stop advertising when lawmakers are on recess.
This year’s effort is the next phase in NACDS’ “Pharmacies: The Face of Neighborhood Health Care” campaign that began with a similar advertising blitz in early 2008 when Congress was just beginning to discuss health care reform.
The difference between that campaign and the latest one is that this year’s initiative will carry much more of a fiscal responsibility message — something that should resonate with many of the 112 new members of the House and Senate who have made controlling federal spending their top priority, according to Krese.
“We are ramping this effort up at a very critical time,” Krese notes, adding that while the current ad campaign is an extension of the association’s earlier effort, the message has been updated to reflect pharmacy’s changing dynamics.
“One notable difference is that we’ve inserted a message urging Congress to pass the Medication Therapy Management Empowerment Act of 2011,” he says.
Introduced last month by Sen. Kay Hagan (D., N.C.), the bill is being touted as a step toward improving patient care and reining in health care spending.
Although MTM was authorized for Medicare patients as part of the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003, the new legislation would allow MTM services to be provided to any Medicare recipient who suffers from a chronic condition that accounts for a high level of spending in the nation’s health care system.
NACDS and executives from drug store chains across the country have praised the new MTM bill as a big stride toward recognizing the role that pharmacists can play in a revamped health care system.
In fact, they point out, the New England Health Institute has estimated that the overall cost of poor medication adherence is as much as $290 billion per year, or 13% of total health care expenditures.
“Neighborhood pharmacies can provide MTM services to help patients manage their health, especially for those patients who suffer from chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, asthma or other conditions,” NACDS president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson commented when the MTM legislation was introduced.
“This commonsense legislation can help patients understand the importance of taking their medications as prescribed, which can lead to improved health as well as lowering their health care costs,” he stated.
To help rally support for the proposed MTM legislation, NACDS held a press conference with Hagan and the bill’s cosponsor, Sen. Al Franken (D., Minn.) at the Capitol last week as part of RxImpact Day.
Krese says the event and NACDS’ new ad campaign are the latest efforts in the association’s ongoing effort to raise the profile of community pharmacy and help lawmakers understand the critical nature of the work done by pharmacists around the country.
“Everything we’ve done has been focused on raising awareness of the fact that pharmacy is the face of health care,” he says. “This advertising campaign is part of NACDS’ multidepartmental commitment to winning and should go a long way to communicate the value of community pharmacy.”