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NACDS’ Anderson reflects on pharmacists’ role in preventing heart disease

BY Sandra Levy

Pharmacists have the knowledge to provide chronic care services, especially in the area of cardiovascular disease, but they face impediments, said National Association of Chain Drug Stores president and CEO Steve Anderson, in an op-ed titled, “In Matters of the Heart, Pharmacists are Key Partners.”

In the piece, posted on Medium on Feb. 28., and coinciding with American Heart Month, Anderson said, “Pharmacies have increasingly become healthcare destinations for health and wellness, but there are regulatory challenges that impede pharmacists’ ability to broadly provide these chronic care services to patients on a day-to-day basis. These impediments include a lack of recognition of pharmacists as healthcare providers and inadequate — or non-existent — reimbursement for their services. These hurdles make it very difficult for pharmacies to sustainably deliver patient care and broadly improve health outcomes.”

Anderson went on to say that pharmacists are a proactive healthcare partner because, as known and trusted healthcare professionals, they can provide key patient care services in preventing and managing heart disease, such as testing for high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes. “Pharmacists can also educate patients on healthier lifestyle choices and on taking medications as prescribed — or, medication adherence. A lack of medication adherence in patients diminishes health, and costs the American healthcare system between $100 billion and $289 billion a year,” he said.

Anderson continued, “A startling revelation marked the start of February’s American Heart Month: Nearly half of American adults are affected by heart disease, which is the number-one cause of death in the U.S. While these latest findings from the American Heart Association are alarming, a trusted and accessible partner exists in the highly trusted pharmacists who are ideally situated in communities across the country. More than 91% of all Americans live within five miles of a community pharmacy.”

A poll conducted by Morning Consult in January and commissioned by NACDS found that 75% of registered voters support enhancing patient access to newer pharmacy services, including managing diseases such as diabetes.

“The public supports a more expanded role for pharmacists in healthcare delivery. The Morning Consult poll found that 66% of respondents are more likely to support a congressional candidate who advances policies that increase access to basic healthcare services by allowing pharmacists and other healthcare professionals to better use their education and training. In that regard, it is worth noting the extensive education that pharmacists bring to the care that they deliver: since 2003, becoming a pharmacist means earning a doctorate degree in pharmacy.”

Anderson pointed out that the AHA estimates that the cost of cardiovascular disease will be $1.1 trillion dollars in 2035. “In a month that celebrates the heart, this is not a promising projection for the future of Americans’ health. The good news is, a resolution is possible with the help of pharmacists, who are qualified, accessible, trusted, and living and working in the communities they serve. Pharmacies are a part of the solution in helping Americans prevent, manage and improve their heart health outcomes,” said Anderson.

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