Push for reform to continue at NACDS

ALEXANDRIA, Va. —The National Association of Chain Drug Stores promotes community pharmacy as “the face of neighborhood health care.” In 2010, federal and state policy-makers and ordinary Americans will know that face even better, said NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson.

“Obviously, running a trade organization in an economy like this has been a very unique and historic opportunity,” Anderson told Drug Store News. “And in Washington, in terms of what we do, we’ve probably never had a more challenging, active, but more successful, year at NACDS than we did in 2009.”

In a wide-ranging, exclusive Dec. 17 interview, Anderson recapped the dramatic highs and lows of a year dominated by economic crisis and health reform, and expressed determination to keep the lobbying heat on in 2010.

Year 2009, Anderson said, “has really been a watershed year in telling the story of pharmacy” The health-reform debate, in particular, “has given us an opportunity to be on the field when a lot of people are in the stands,” he added. “It’s given us the opportunity to tell the value story of retail pharmacy…on Capitol Hill, as we attempt to lower health costs and improve patient care. There’s no profession that fits that bill better than pharmacy…and if we don’t tell the story, who’s going to?”

One recent example has been the largely successful flu vaccination effort at pharmacies. “Our members did an amazing job in communicating about H1N1 and immunizing Americans,” Anderson noted. To that end, pharmacy retailers successfully cleared away the last state restrictions on pharmacist-administered immunizations in 2009. “Maine was the last state” to change its laws, Anderson observed. “Now all pharmacies have the ability to vaccinate.”

In a coordinated lobbying campaign, NACDS and other pharmacy groups also have convinced many lawmakers to overturn newly hatched restrictions that would make it almost impossible for many pharmacy retailers to sell durable medical equipment and diabetic supplies to patients enrolled in the Medicare Part B program. At press time, a delay of those new rules was set for expiration Jan. 1, but industry leaders were hoping Congress would grant another stay.

NACDS and its top executives are closely monitoring the progress of health-reform legislation, as the Senate and House work to iron out differences between the health-reform bills from both sides of the Capitol. Of particular concern: the provision in the Senate bill for Medicaid pharmacy reimbursement at a paltry 130% of the average manufacturer’s cost that pharmacies pay for generic medications. Many other issues—such as the way medication therapy management services by pharmacists would be reimbursed, and plans to allow for direct importation of drugs from Canada and other countries not under the purview of the Food and Drug Administration—also remain clouded as lawmakers in both houses of Congress debate health reform.

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