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NACDS rounds out Annual Meeting lineup

BY DSN STAFF

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores has released more information about the guest speakers and entertainment that will be on offer at its Annual Meeting, which is slated to take place April 21-24 in Palm Beach, Fla.

In addition to announcing Pulitzer Prize winner Peggy Noonan as the speaker for its Sunday Business Program, the event’s official schedule has been updated to include NACDS PAC Breakfast speaker Jeb Bush and post-Board of Directors Dinner entertainment Diana Ross.

Peggy Noonan NACDS Annual

Peggy Noonan

“I am looking forward to the Sunday Business Program and to welcoming Peggy Noonan to the NACDS Annual Meeting,” NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson said. “NACDS members are going to really enjoy and benefit from a truly gifted professional who has written words and captured feelings that have shaped history.”

Noonan, who served as a speechwriter and special assistant for President Ronald Reagan, has written her “Declarations” column in the Wall Street Journal since 2000, which earned her the 2017 Pulitzer for distinguished commentary. She has written several books, including the 2015 release “The Time of Our Lives,” a chronicle of her journalism career and time in the Reagan White House and politics. Noonan also serves as a television political analyst. She has received the Congressional Medal of Honor for media excellence.

According to the event schedule, Bush, a former two-term Florida governor who ran for president in 2016, will be speaking at the invitation-only NACDS Chain Members and PAC Breakfast on the morning of April 23. Ross will close out the event following the Board of Directors Dinner on the evening of April 24.

The new additions to the NACDS Annual lineup join previously announced opening night entertainment Huey Lewis and the News, as well as author Jim Collins, who will speak at the Sunday Business Program.

More information about NACDS Annual can be found here.

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Former Lilly exec confirmed as HHS secretary

BY David Salazar

Alex Azar is the nation’s latest Secretary of Health and Human Services. Azar, who served as president of Eli Lilly from 2012 to January 2017, was confirmed by the Senate with a 55-to-43 vote.

Alex Azar

Azar is the second HHS secretary in the year-old Trump administration, succeeding Tom Price, who resigned from the position at the end of September.

At his confirmation hearing, Azar said that his focus at the helm of HHS would be on four areas — drug prices, the affordability of healthcare and rising premiums, an outcomes-based focus for Medicare and addressing the opioid epidemic.

“Through my experience helping to implement Part D and with my extensive knowledge of how insurance, manufacturers, pharmacy, and government programs work together, I believe I bring skills and experiences to the table that can help us address these issues, while still encouraging discovery so Americans have access to high-quality care,” Azar said at his confirmation hearing in November.

Senate Finance Committee chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Ia., said that he met with Azar to discuss government transparency and prudent use of taxpayer money as the head the agency overseeing Medicare and Medicaid, and ultimately decided he was the best man for the job.

“During our meeting, he assured me that encouraging competition in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries and stemming the tide of rising drug prices would be among his top priorities,” Grassley said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that Azar is uniquely qualified for the position.

“It is vital that this department be headed by a leader with Mr. Azar’s extensive qualifications and excellent reputation. He will be responsible for overseeing $1.13 trillion in department spending, supervising critical research, and administering — and reforming — programs that touch millions of Americans’ lives, such as Medicare and Medicaid. I look forward to voting soon in support of his confirmation.”

Grassley, McConnell and the Republican caucus largely carried Azar’s confirmation, with only six Democrats voting to confirm. Several members of the Democratic caucus raised questions about his commitment to lowering drug prices and improve health care given the Administration’s and Congress’ efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“Let me start by saying that Mr. Azar doesn’t come with the staggering ethical challenges of the first Trump HHS nominee, Tom Price. And by the strict definition, Mr. Azar is qualified for this position,” Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said before voting against Azar’s confirmation. “But here’s my view: Mr. Azar’s nomination is a perfect encapsulation of the president’s broken promises on prescription drugs and health care overall.”

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren lodged her concerns, expressing skepticism about the future of accessible healthcare.

“Republicans want to pretend that Alex Azar is totally different from Tom Price because Tom Price was a terrible HHS Secretary who didn’t put the American people first. But I don’t see the difference,” Warren said. “He will support efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, gut efforts to enroll people in health insurance, [and] take away Medicaid from people who need it the most.”

The biopharma industry has welcomed Azar’s confirmation, with the Biotechnology Innovation Organization offering its congratulations. BIO president and CEO Jim Greenwood said his organization looks forward to working with Azar and highlighted the areas that HHS could help the United States health care system.

“The opportunities facing HHS today are enormous,” Greenwood sai. “From encouraging the development of new technologies to help solve the opioid crisis and removing barriers to value-based payment models, to overseeing the [Food and Drug Administration] and [National Institutes of Helath] as they implement landmark new legislation to speed the science and development of new cures and promote greater competition and choice in the marketplace, the decisions made at HHS today will leave a lasting imprint on American health care for decades to come.”

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Author, consultant Collins to speak at NACDS Annual

BY David Salazar

Attendees of this year’s National Association of Chain Drug Stores Annual Meeting will get to hear from bestselling author and business consultant Jim Collins, the Arlington, Va.-based trade group announced Thursday.

Collins has written or co-authored six books that sold more than 10 million copies worldwide, including his bestseller Good to Great, which examines how good companies become great companies.

“We are thrilled that Jim Collins will be speaking once again at our Annual Meeting. Jim first participated in the NACDS Annual Meeting in 1996, and has since spoken at several of our other events, including the inaugural NACDS Total Store Expo in 2013,” NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson said. “Jim’s ability to analyze all aspects of business successes and challenges—especially in these rapidly changing times—will be an invaluable asset for NACDS members as they continue to anticipate the future and position themselves proactively. Jim is a master of examining solutions in unpredictable times and brings a great deal of knowledge to the table.”

Collins will address the second Business Program at NACDS Annual, which is set to take place April 21-24 at the Breakers in Palm Beach, Fla. The event will be kicked off with a performance by Huey Lewis and the News.

More information about NACDS Annual can be found here.

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