Lupin 2023

Rx advocates make case on Capitol Hill

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WASHINGTON — More than 350 drug chain executives, pharmacists and pharmacy students from across the country took to Capitol Hill earlier this month to lobby lawmakers about the role community pharmacy can play in controlling health care costs.

The mass gathering that saw a sea of white coats strolling through the halls of the House of Representatives and Senate office buildings surrounding the Capitol was part of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ third annual RxImpact Day on Capitol Hill.

For the better part of a day, pharmacy executives, pharmacists, pharmacy students and NACDS officials met with lawmakers to help them understand the critical role that community pharmacy can play in patient care and reining in health care costs.

Because Congress is adamant about trimming the federal budget any way possible, the pharmacy advocates were sure to point out that giving pharmacists a greater role in patient care can eliminate much of the waste from health care spending.

In almost every meeting with senators or representatives, the pharmacists and students spoke of the need to pass medication therapy management (MTM) bills recently introduced in the House and the Senate.

Pharmacy advocates tried to get more lawmakers to sponsor the Medication Therapy Management Benefits Act of 2011, introduced in the House earlier this month by Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R., Wash.) and Mike Ross (D., Ark.), and the Medication Therapy Management Empowerment Act of 2011, introduced in the Senate last month by Sen. Kay Hagan (D., N.C.).

At a press conference before the pharmacists and students met with lawmakers, Hagan discussed why legislation to expand MTM coverage to hundreds of thousands of Medicare patients should become law.

“Too many people are not following the correct procedures for taking their medications, and the consequences are dire,” she said. “By expanding MTM to more seniors, it will lead to more Medicare savings, and that is something that a lot of people in Congress will be glad to hear.”

According to a 2009 report by the New England Healthcare Institute, poor medication adherence led to an estimated $290 billion a year in avoidable medical spending, or 13% of all health care expenditures. Other studies have shown that as many as 70% of Medicare patients do not take their medications properly.

“This is commonsense legislation,” Rep. Ross said about the MTM bill during a meeting with students from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

Ross, who owned an independent pharmacy in Prescott, Ark., before he was elected to Congress in 2000, said the bill is the kind of step forward that was envisioned when health care reform was passed last year. “It’s a win-win for everyone,” he said. “It will not only drive down costs but will help better the lives of our seniors.”

As the 350 pharmacy advocates who descended on Capitol Hill for the event emerged from their meetings with lawmakers, they said the MTM proposal was met with near unanimous approval.

The one caveat cited by nearly every representative and senator was that the measure had to be cost-neutral and not add anything to the federal budget, the advocates noted.

“They seem to all be tuned into the need to reduce health care costs,” Bartell Drug chief operating officer Ed Littleton said after meeting with Washington state’s two senators and three members of the House. “They seemed to be receptive but were hesitant about the costs.”

For the most part, RxImpact Day attendees said, there is growing evidence that bringing pharmacist-administered MTM to more patients will drive down health care spending.

“The evidence shows that this is a sound proposal,” Ralph Petrie, executive vice president of pharmacy and supply chain operations at Kerr Drug, said after meeting with North Carolina Democratic congressmen G.K. Butterfield and Heath Schuler. “This should make it easier for them to vote for expanding MTM to more Medicare patients.”

He noted that a recent cost-benefit analysis of the North Carolina Health and Wellness Trust Fund found that every $1 spent on its ChecKmeds MTM program saved the state $13.55 in other health care costs.


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