NCPA: Buzz around future of community pharmacy not dampened by government shutdown

ORLANDO, Fla. — The National Community Pharmacists Association Tuesday morning spelled out its public policy agenda — including the push to get H.R. 3204, The Drug Quality and Security Act, enacted — and expressed optimism for the future of community pharmacy during a media briefing held in conjunction with NCPA’s 115th Annual Convention and Trade Exposition here. 

But first the government needs to resume operations. "There's been a lot of discussion … among the business owners that are members of NCPA with respect to the inability of Congress to act on both funding the government and also the larger threat of defaulting on our nation's debt," commented Steve Pfister, NCPA SVP government affairs. "This is impacting everyone on Main Street and there is a high level of frustration among NCPA members on the inability of Congress to get their fiscal house in order."

NCPA's top legislation priority regards the compounding bill that's coupled with the track and trace legislation to strengthen the drug supply chain network. "NCPA has been working for months … to come up with a workable [solution]." However, due to the government shutdown, everything is currently on hold. "We are expecting that when the government reopens and the Senate resumes business, that the Senate will move expeditiously for consideration of The Drug Quality and Security Act."

The government furlough, aside, however, community pharmacists are excited about a future with outcomes-based medicine practices. "We had a great meeting; we had close to 3,000 attendees," reported NCPA CEO Douglas Hoey. "There is a real buzz in the air, a real excitement, for where pharmacy practice is going, especially with the way that integrated healthcare models [are forming with] pharmacists taking on a more responsible role for delivering that healthcare."

Independent pharmacists are looking to the number of opportunities opening to them, such as medication adherence initiatives. 

According to the 2013 NCPA Digest, sponsored by Cardinal Health released Tuesday, independent community pharmacies are increasingly focused on helping patients stick to their medication and saving money through the appropriate use of lower-cost generic drugs. “Independent community pharmacists are playing a larger role than ever in improving health and cutting costs through the promotion of medication adherence and proper use of generic drugs,” Hoey said. “The Digest reinforces the value and diverse nature of the care provided by trusted, community pharmacists. Small business community pharmacy owners and pharmacists look forward to continuing to work to help policymakers and health plan sponsors enhance patient outcomes and reduce expenses.” 

According to the NCPA Digest, community pharmacists are tackling the medication adherence issue head-on. Roughly half (48%) of all independent community pharmacies offer patients adherence counseling services, a notable increase from the 39% in the previous survey. The number of community pharmacies providing adherence phone call or text reminders nearly doubled, surging to 39% from 22%. 

In addition, community pharmacists reached a new record high frequency in generic drug utilization, dispensing them 77% of the time. Community pharmacists routinely consult with physicians about proper prescription drug therapy, and pharmacists’ recommendations for generic drug use are accepted 83% of the time.

The number of total independent community pharmacies is estimated to be 23,029, slightly below the 23,106 of the previous year. Prescription sales volume decreased slightly, led by declining refill rates, possibly due to mandatory mail order pharmacy requirements or other limitations imposed on patient choice, NCPA surmised.

For the first time, a majority share of the prescription transactions at independent community pharmacies came from two programs: Medicare (33% of prescriptions) and Medicaid (18%). Independent community pharmacies continue to be a lifeline for underserved areas, particularly rural ones, as 53% of these pharmacies are located in areas populated by 20,000 people or less.

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