NCPA leader 'advanced the agenda of community pharmacy'

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT Independent pharmacy’s toughest champion will soon be unlacing his gloves. Bruce Roberts, who has led the National Community Pharmacists Association with boundless energy and passion for nearly nine years, will step aside June 25. His exit will mark the closing of a remarkable chapter in the inspiring, hard-fought saga of independent drug store retailing.

(THE NEWS: Head of NCPA to step down. For the full story, click here)

Roberts will leave a big footprint for whoever succeeds him. If independent pharmacy has been too often a survival-of-the-fittest battleground for owner-operators over the past decade, the industry found a worthy, battle-tested leader when this pharmacy owner agreed to take the NCPA reins in a post-9/11 America.

As NCPA’s EVP and CEO, Roberts brought the venerable pharmacy group in the 21st century — and into the front ranks of the many lobbying groups and political action committees that swarm Capitol Hill. Under his tireless prodding and propelled by his boundless enthusiasm, NCPA’s members ponied up more than a million dollars to make the organization one of the best-funded and most visible PACs seeking to influence Congress.

Over the past nine years, Roberts and his staff have been a constant presence in health care hearings and Capitol Hill staff meetings. Striding purposefully into meetings with the compact build of a well-attired wrestler and the laser-like focus of a pharmacy owner who practices what he preaches, Roberts has proved an articulate and passionate advocate for community pharmacy.

To that end, he’s also ushered in a new era of effective collaboration with other pharmacy and healthcare stakeholders like the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the American Pharmacists Association and the Food Marketing Institute. In the process, community pharmacy has gained enormously in stature and relevance among health policymakers, providers and managed-care plans and payers, and the profession has won a series of critical legislative and regulatory victories. Roberts has also emerged as an outspoken opponent of the pharmacy benefit management industry — or, more specifically, of the opaque business practices he accuses PBMs of using.

“He has been a true partner as, together, NACDS and NCPA advanced the agenda of community pharmacy,” said NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson Thursday, after Roberts revealed his plan to retire.

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