NACDS chief calls industry to action

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PALM BEACH, Fla.

As the election season and rising healthcare costs spawn a furious national debate on the future of the U.S. healthcare system, retail pharmacy leaders must join that debate with a massive and coordinated message about the role and value of retail pharmacy, NACDS president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson asserts.

In an exclusive videotaped interview with Drug Store News, an interview which can be viewed in its entirety at www.drugstorenews.com by clicking on the “NEW Math” clip, Anderson talks in detail about the conditions that led to community pharmacy’s current second-tier status in the pantheon of healthcare professions—and the steps the industry must take to boost its standing.

Elaborating on comments he made to NACDS members at a general session of the organization’s annual meeting here, Anderson traces some of pharmacy’s challenges to a report, sponsored by the American Medical Association and published a century ago. “It actually created the framework for the health care delivery system for the last 100 years,” Anderson tells Drug Store News.

Under that framework, he adds, pharmacy was relegated to the status shared by other alternative health practices like acupuncture, homeopathic medicine, naturopathy and chiropractic. “It was perceived as being non-scientific. And for 100 years, pharmacy has been in that shadow,” Anderson says. “What we’re attempting to do with NACDS now is really to redefine how policymakers view health care.”

Anderson predicts that following the fall elections, the health care debate will reach a crescendo. In the midst of that debate, he says, “We’re doing everything we can to make sure that policymakers understand that pharmacy is a critical part of our health care system.”

Anderson credits the NACDS board of directors for challenging the organization’s staff to “be much more proactive, and to play offense, and not always play defense, which I think NACDS has traditionally done.

“We haven’t had too many wins,” he adds. “We’ve had a lot of activity…with very little results. What we’re attempting to do now is to have real, measured results. We are communicating the value of what this industry does…and we’re being much more proactive on the offense side on our message points.”

That includes a new advertising campaign and efforts to develop “new allies in Washington, so that when we go into these health care debates in the next year, we will have a seat at the table,” Anderson says.

NACDS’ top executive also cites some of the recent victories retail pharmacy has achieved in the public policy arena, including a delay in implementation of new, burdensome Medicaid reimbursement rules that would cost pharmacies millions of dollars. “Our AMP injunction is saving the pharmacy industry $5.5 million every day,” he says. “The two-year delay on the e-pedigree requirement for medications in California is saving our members who do business out there $90 million.”

However, Anderson adds, “We just can’t do it ourselves. We need pharmacy operators to have representatives and senators to go through their stores so they can see what they do to not only improve lives, but to save lives.”

Anderson also discussed the huge impact retail pharmacy has on the U.S. economy, beyond the $750 billion in direct annual sales each year. “What we discovered [is] that for every $1 spent in a retail store that has a pharmacy in it, [that] has a $2.93 impact that ripples throughout the entire economy. So retail with pharmacy is responsible for $2.2 trillion in our nation’s economy, which is more than 16 percent of the gross domestic product.

“My message to opinion leaders and policymakers is, when you’re doing harm to pharmacy, you’re doing harm to the vitality of local communities,” Anderson asserts.

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