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On the eve of Rx’s finest hour?

BY Rob Eder

A little more than 60 days to go before America decides who next should lead it, and, in the words of the great Winston Churchill, this quite possibly could be community pharmacy’s finest hour: the key words, of course, are “could be.” That’s what I was thinking as NACDS president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson addressed the crowd assembled for the morning business session at the NACDS Pharmacy Technology Conference in San Diego on Monday, Aug. 25.

I had been thinking the same thing Sunday morning during NACDS chairman Warren Bryant’s opening comments. “I believe [this] will be a watershed era for pharmacy,” Bryant said. “If there is one thing you take from this conference, it is that you must get involved in the healthcare discussion with your payors and legislators to assure they understand the full value of retail pharmacy.”

To be honest, I began thinking about it even before that; this is, indeed, as Bryant noted, a “make-or-break time” for the people who operate pharmacies in this country, a time that could lead to unprecedented reform in health care in America. The question is, can this industry seize upon the momentum of some important recent victories, such as the AMP delay, prompt payment for Part D, TRICARE and, most recently, Medi-Cal, among others, and ensure that it remains on the right side of the changes that are sure to come in health care and that those changes are in the best interests not only of pharmacy and pharmacists, but patients, too?

While I may have been thinking about it for a while, the idea fully crystallized for me during Anderson’s remarks—probably owing less to my amazing intellect than his direct reference to Churchill—that this could be retail pharmacy’s finest hour. Couldn’t it be?

Anderson was talking about an old motivational poster he recently came across. It was a picture of Winston Churchill with another of his famous phrases, “Deserve victory.”

“It demands a clear focus on the objective—the win—and a firm commitment to all it requires,” Anderson explained. “It is more than a commentary on what would be required of a country facing an ominous threat. It was a call to action, stating what would be required of each citizen.”

Thankfully, as Anderson admitted, the challenges facing community pharmacy are not quite so daunting as those that faced the World War II allied nations. But in many ways the future of this industry and the health and welfare of America are riding on how community pharmacy confronts the threats against it.

“In a different yet powerful way, the challenge to ‘deserve victory’ is indeed ours,” Anderson said. “As Churchill said, ‘we cannot guarantee victory, but only deserve it.”

The references to Churchill are worth noting for a couple of reasons. First, Churchill goes on a short list of the most gifted communicators of the 20th century, and quite possibly, in the history of the world. He was an uncanny storyteller.

Second, and perhaps equally as notable, Churchill was no pansy.

Because of that, Churchill had an incredible ability to get people to do what he wanted—except for maybe Joe Stalin—but that is a separate discussion.

And as much as Anderson was not comparing the situation facing retail pharmacy to the Nazi menace, make no mistake, I am not comparing Anderson to Churchill. But I will say this: in Anderson, community pharmacy has found a gifted communicator who has not shied away from the fight. Under his leadership, community pharmacy has crafted a pretty compelling story, and politicians, policy makers, the press—even the President—are beginning to listen.

“We need Washington to think and to act anew, and creatively, about pharmacy’s role,” Anderson said. “We have big ideas that can sell in Washington: invest in pharmacy, and we can save on overall healthcare costs, and improve lives.”

It’s a powerful message. And clearly, the timing is right for America to hear that story. According to a recent study commissioned by community pharmacy, health care will be one of the top five issues in the next election for 69 percent of registered voters; top 10, for 89 percent.

“What will be the outcomes,” Anderson said. “Nobody in this room knows. But will we deserve to win? The answer is within each of us.”

Borrowing from his famous radio address, Churchill put it this way: “Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if ________________ last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’

Over the next several weeks, it will be up to community pharmacy to fill in the blank, and be the author of its own history.

CORRECTION: A chart in the Aug. 18 issue of Drug Store News that appeared with a story on the leading retail clinic operators in America (page 87), mistakenly lists Aurora QuickCare as operating only nine clinic locations. It, in fact, operates 19 clinics in the state of Wisconsin.

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Walgreens donates food, supplies as new storms target Gulf, Southeast

BY Jim Frederick

DEERFIELD, Ill. Walgreens has sent truckloads of food, water and emergency supplies to Baton Rouge, La., to aid with continuing Hurricane Gustav relief efforts.

Among the necessities shipped to hard-hit residents: water, trail mix, granola bars and other snack items, along with infant formula and diapers. Walgreens reports it is also gathering supplies to place on standby for a swift response to new emergency requests across the nation’s southeast coast with the expected arrival of Tropical Storm Hanna this weekend and Hurricane Ike next week.

“We’ll direct critical resources to communities in need,” said Walgreens director of community affairs John Gremer. “We’re on alert, and we’ll be ready to help wherever we can.”

The company notes there is still “tremendous need in many Baton Rouge communities,” which were among the hardest hit by Gustav. “Thousands remain without electricity, and food and water are still in high demand,” the company reports.

Another priority is getting any stores that were closed due to the storm back open quickly, according to the chain. As of Friday morning, Walgreens reported, “all but one of Walgreens’ 15 Baton Rouge stores are open. Across the Gulf Coast region, only nine remain closed down from 69 closed immediately following the storm.”

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Rite Aid donates $44,500-plus in supplies for Gustav evacuees

BY Michael Johnsen

CAMP HILL, Pa. To further assist evacuees of Hurricane Gustav, The Rite Aid Foundation is donating more than $44,500 worth of supplies including water, snacks, sunscreen, hand sanitizer and other personal hygiene products as requested by the Louisiana Capital Area Chapter of the American Red Cross to be distributed at shelters for evacuees, the Foundation announced Friday

“Throughout the Gulf Coast, widespread flooding and violent wind damage have created an urgent need for disaster support,” stated Jeff Towers, chief development officer at the American Red Cross. “Rite Aid generously responded to this need through in-kind and financial support to help the Red Cross provide food, shelter and counseling to Gulf Coast communities during this hurricane season.”

Earlier this week, The Rite Aid Foundation made a $75,000 donation to the American Red Cross to help the victims, families and communities affected by Hurricane Gustav in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. A relief team of Rite Aid associates, including store cashiers and pharmacists, have traveled from Tennessee and unaffected areas of Louisiana and Alabama to help stores that have been impacted and to help reopen additional stores.

“One of Rite Aid’s core values is to be caring neighbors in the communities we serve, and we are happy to work with the American Red Cross to help the evacuees of Hurricane Gustav,” commented Mike Seesholtz, Rite Aid regional vice president for Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. “Our associates have been amazing in their commitment to do whatever they can to help the victims of Hurricane Gustav.”

Residents displaced by the hurricane can visit any open Rite Aid for their prescriptions because the company’s satellite-linked computer network assures a complete customer prescription history at any Rite Aid store. Because of the state of emergency, Rite Aid pharmacies also can access prescription information for patients who do not normally get their prescriptions at Rite Aid.

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