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Senate confirms Tom Price as HHS secretary

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WASHINGTON — Vowing to fix what he called a “broken health care system,” Rep. Tom Price (R., Ga.) was sworn in earlier this month as secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Retail pharmacy groups responded by welcoming Price to his new post as HHS secretary.

Tom Price_HHS secretary

Tom Price

“We congratulate Rep. Tom Price on becoming secretary of HHS,” said B. Douglas Hoey, chief executive officer of the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA). “Before coming to Congress, he was an orthopedic surgeon. Since his election to the House of Representatives in 2004, Price climbed the congressional leadership ranks and used his medical background to be a leading expert on health policy for the Republican conference. He is uniquely qualified to lead HHS, which will oversee the potential repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act and possible reforms to the Medicaid program, among other high-profile priorities for America’s complex health system.

“While everyone shares the goal of finding ways to produce better health outcomes while reducing costs, NCPA and the more than 22,000 independent community pharmacies it represents will continue to push for commonsense, market-based, bipartisan reforms in our area of expertise — the delivery of critical prescription drug services to Americans. We are eager to work with Secretary Price and look forward to sharing our thoughts with him going ­forward.”

When Price was announced as President Trump’s pick to serve as HHS secretary, National Association of Chain Drug Stores president and CEO Steve Anderson said he welcomed the nomination and looked forward to working with him.

“We are enthusiastic to help leverage pharmacy to improve Americans’ health and well-being,” Anderson said at the time. “When it comes to the accessibility, quality and affordability of health care, pharmacies are doing more than ever before and can be utilized even more effectively for the good of patients and for the benefit of society. NACDS has a powerful story to tell, and we look forward to working with these leaders to put that story into action in new and innovative ways.

“Collaboration is absolutely essential to maximize the potential of the health care delivery system, and to prevent policies that stifle it. NACDS looks forward to engaging completely in the ongoing work of developing and implementing solutions that benefit American patients and consumers.”

More recently, Anderson released a statement noting that during his Senate confirmation Price focused on six principles of health care reform — affordability, accessibility, quality, innovation, responsiveness and choices.

“I cannot help but note at this pivotal time in our nation’s health care policy skirmishes that pharmacy makes a powerful case for its role in advancing all of these principles,” Anderson noted. When it comes to affordability, for example, 65% of respondents in a recent national survey commissioned by NACDS said that pharmacists are credible information sources on opportunities to save money. On accessibility, he noted that nearly all Americans (91%) live within five miles of a community pharmacy. He made similar arguments supporting pharmacy’s role in addressing the four other pillars mentioned.

“To be sure, uncertainty is among the characteristics defining the current health care policy environment,” Anderson wrote. “But if affordability, accessibility, quality, innovation, responsiveness and choices are among the standards that will be applied to any future changes, pharmacy has strong legs to stand on — and NACDS intends to make pharmacy’s case with absolute passion and clarity.”

The Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), which represents over-the-counter drug manufacturers and marketers, also congratulated Price on his confirmation.

“We are confident that Secretary Price believes, as do we, that Americans want to be empowered to make smart and effective health care choices and they want more self-care options, including O-T-C medicines,” CHPA said in a statement. “Given Secretary Price’s oversight of FDA and its critical mission to protect and advance public health, we encourage him to consider the following qualities that CHPA feels are necessary for an ideal new FDA commissioner: an ability to deal with complexity; decisiveness and a respect for risk; medical and scientific knowledge; passion for FDA’s mission; vision; and accountability.”


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