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Industry responds to COVID-19: NACDS

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NACDS members surely will rise up, as they have done before.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of articles on how retailers are responding to the COVID-19 crisis.

steve anderson

Steven Anderson

 I appreciate the chance to report to the Chain Drug Review community on NACDS’ COVID-19 response. NACDS and CDR have much in common, including many of the retailer and supplier companies and team members whom we both serve. It also includes a common purpose of meeting this industry’s needs in ways that benefit individuals, communities and the entire nation — every day and in times of emergency.

“Rise”: Meeting Another Challenge

The only way to start a report like this is to thank the people of our industry. The pharmacists, pharmacy staff and team members throughout the store are performing heroically. Everyone is answering the call in so many ways — whether the call for help comes from the White House or from the little house down the block. It is an honor for NACDS to serve the ­membership.

In fact, I write this article having just recorded a new NACDS ad — titled “Rise.” We will use this message as part of our work to recognize the people of our industry, and to help rally the nation, amid COVID-19.

The ad describes challenges faced previously by America. As the title suggests, the ad heralds the dedication of pharmacies to help rise up with our neighbors to answer the call. It declares: “We’re all in this together, and like the generations before us, we’ll rise to meet this challenge together — with America’s pharmacies ready and open, every step of the way.”

Health, Value, Trust and ­Mission

From the earliest days of the COVID-19 situation, NACDS established four goals:

  • Advance the health of the public, of member companies’ team members and of the NACDS staff.
  • Deliver value to the NACDS membership.
  • Live up to the reputation of pharmacies and pharmacists for trust, accessibility and ­professionalism.
  • Continue to advance the overall NACDS mission.

NACDS Membership Value in Focus

It is convenient to focus on the concept of membership value, as it relates closely to all of the other goals. In a recent survey, NACDS chain members indicated that they define the value of NACDS in three main ways:

  • Advocacy for pro-patient and pro-pharmacy public policy.
  • Sharing information about government policies.
  • Presenting networking and trends analysis for retailers and suppliers.

Value: Advocating to Remove Barriers

NACDS’ top priority is to advocate that all levels of government remove barriers on pharmacies and pharmacists. Otherwise, they cannot be fully prepared to meet the escalating needs of those affected by COVID-19, and of those with other illnesses who may be left beside an overwhelmed health care delivery system.

In an Omaha World Herald op-ed on February 8, Dr. Ali Khan urged the removal of barriers on pharmacists. That was one day after a flight carrying quarantined passengers arrived in Omaha.

“Not enough has been done to leverage the array of partners who extend the public face of public health. Retail clinics and community pharmacists come to mind quickly,” wrote Khan, a retired assistant surgeon general, and currently the dean of the University of Nebraska College of Public Health.

He explained, “Much upside potential exists if needless state barriers are eliminated.”

Khan’s anticipation of the importance of pharmacies and pharmacists, and of the need to unleash them, remains spot on.

On March 24, NACDS released an open letter to President Trump, Vice President Pence, the U.S. congressional leadership and the governors. It summarizes detailed policy recommendations that NACDS has issued. These federal and state recommendations describe actions necessary to maintain the business continuity of pharmacies, to maintain medication access, and to empower pharmacists to provide COVID-19 testing, medications and a vaccine when ­developed.

We already have started to see progress, and a comprehensive approach will be necessary for pharmacy to maximize its role in mitigating the effects of COVID-19 and of other illnesses at this time.

In fact, when the Trump administration called on the governors to take steps to empower health professionals — in many ways consistent with NACDS’ recommendations — NACDS welcomed that urging yet emphasized that half measures will not be enough.

“Our nation will not be able to fully ‘bend the curve’ without leveraging pharmacies and pharmacists — the health care destinations and professionals serving within five miles of most Americans,” we stated.

NACDS will carefully track and publicly evaluate the progress of our government leaders in removing the barriers as necessary to allow for patient care.

In addition, NACDS has joined with 110 other organizations in urging government leaders to help maintain the supply of critical products while confronting COVID-19. This initiative is of importance to all NACDS members — retailers and suppliers alike.

Value: Critical Information

Within the first two weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) participated in two conference calls with NACDS members. These turned out to be working sessions, with members asking practical questions, and with CDC officials following up with helpful guidance on pressing topics.

NACDS has included this information and more in a portal at NACDS.org/Prepared. This portal includes:

  • A constantly updated statement for use with the media.
  • Situation reports and guidance from government ­agencies.
  • Insights from NACDS supplier members of relevance to the entire store.
  • Live data tracking.
  • Thought leadership and advocacy tools.

I hope you will use this resource on an ongoing basis.

Value: Retailer and Supplier Collaboration

The importance of two upcoming meetings cannot be overstated. We look forward to the 2020 NACDS Total Store Expo, which will be held August 8 to August 10 in San Diego, and to the 2021 NACDS Annual Meeting, which will be held April 24 to April 27 at The Breakers in Palm Beach, Fla. These events will be even more important than ever before, with much to discuss regarding the path forward after COVID-19.

In the meantime, we cannot thank the membership enough for their ongoing engagement in NACDS and for their support of NACDS’ work on behalf of the industry.

Thank you to all NACDS member company representatives who are doing so much to serve individuals, communities and the nation. Together we surely will rise up, as we have done before, and as we will be called on to do again. Thank you for your leadership and for your support.

Steven Anderson is president and chief executive officer of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.


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