PHARMACY

NCPA bands together with legislators to communicate value of pharmacy

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — More than 350 independent pharmacists will be rallying with legislators in the halls of Congress Wednesday to help communicate the value pharmacists contribute to health care and to advocate for specific legislative initiatives as part of the 2011 Legislative and Government Affairs Conference of the National Community Pharmacists Association.

“The theme this year is more competition, more choice and more access for patients to their community pharmacists,” John Coster, NCPA SVP government affairs, said during a press conference call Tuesday afternoon.

On the agenda: communicating the challenges independents face both as small healthcare providers and small businesses, and advocating for legislation that will make the marketplace more competitive and will field better service providers.

NCPA also will be pitching congressional leaders on joining NCPA’s pharmacy caucus. Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., will co-lead the caucus in the House, Coster said. In the Senate, Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., will lead the caucus.

“We’ve generally, not to this point, had a caucus in the Senate,” Coster said. “That shows the increasing visibility community pharmacy has on Capitol Hill and the importance that members of Congress place on our role in the healthcare system.”

As for legislation, NCPA is lobbying support for the Pharmacy Competition and Consumer Choice Act, which will help level the playing field between retail pharmacy and mail-order pharmacy, and the Medicare Access to Diabetes Supplies Act, which will exempt independent pharmacists from competitive bidding requirements in the sale of diabetes supplies.

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PHARMACY

Chain pharmacy shares Senate subcommittee’s concerns over Rx abuse

BY Antoinette Alexander

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The National Association of Chain Drug Stores announced that it submitted on Tuesday a statement to the Senate Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism for the "Responding to the Prescription Drug Epidemic: Strategies for Reducing Abuse, Misuse, Diversion and Fraud" hearing.

"NACDS and the chain pharmacy industry share the committee’s concerns with the problems of prescription drug abuse, misuse, diversion and fraud. We believe that there are a variety of ways to help curb these unfortunate activities, and chain pharmacies actively support many initiatives to reduce the incidence of these activities," NACDS wrote in its statement.

The statement outlined ways that pharmacy can help curb these problems, including pharmacy’s support for controlled substance prescription monitoring programs, utilization of medication therapy management services, efforts to prevent illegitimate Internet drug sellers from selling drugs to consumers and providing patients with means for disposal of their unwanted medications.

Pharmacy has a long-standing commitment in helping to prevent and curb prescription drug diversion and abuse, NACDS noted. The association recently sent a letter to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy in support of the administration’s strategy to prevent and reduce prescription drug diversion and misuse following the release of the office’s report, "Epidemic: Responding to America’s Prescription Drug Abuse Crisis." In addition, last month NACDS submitted a statement to a House of Representatives panel highlighting pharmacy’s commitment in partnering with law enforcement agencies and other stakeholders to help prevent and combat prescription drug diversion and misuse.

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CVS Caremark outlines results of personalized consumer communications program

BY Antoinette Alexander

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — CVS Caremark outlined on Tuesday at a consumer health engagement conference the results of a personalized consumer communications program designed to encourage patients to take their medications as doctors direct.

Early results of the program showed increases in consumers signing up for automatic prescription refills and more readily substituting branded medications for generic medicines to lower costs.

The program is part of a collaboration CVS Caremark has initiated with behavioral economists from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, Tuck Business School at Dartmouth College and Carnegie Mellon University. Kevin Volpp from Wharton, Punam Keller from Tuck and George Loewenstein from Carnegie Mellon are members of CVS Caremark’s Behavior Change Research Partnership, formed by the company to apply behavioral economics to improve how pharmacy care is provided to customers.

The findings from the research were outlined by Bari Harlam, SVP member engagement for CVS Caremark, at Silverlink’s RESULTS 2011: The Consumer Health Engagement Conference. The conference, held in Boston on Tuesday and Wednesday, focused on innovative ways healthcare companies can engage consumers to take a more active role in their healthcare decisions.

In her remarks, Harlam said that CVS Caremark is measuring the impact of different communications using behavioral science principles on making messages timely, relevant, easy to understand and easy to implement. In addition, such information can be tailored to outline individual medication and cost options to give consumers a chance to consider their own potential cost savings.

"By giving patients who are signing up for prescriptions online an active choice concerning their care, we have seen a significant improvement in the number of people signing up for our automatic prescription refill program," Harlam said. "By providing personalized prescription guides that outline options in easy-to-understand language — whether the communications be on the telephone, face-to-face with pharmacists or by letter — we are seeing an increase in the numbers of patients willing to consider generics."

Harlam said CVS Caremark is investing in behavioral change research and ways to enhance communication as part of its effort to improve customer service to keep patients adherent to their medicines. By helping customers take their medications as doctors direct, they can avoid unnecessary healthcare costs and hospitalizations.

CVS Caremark also has invested in research targeting medication adherence through a three-year collaboration with Harvard and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

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