Ms. Khani and Mr. Sewell are copresidents of the Coalition for Community Pharmacy Action.
As the first session of the 110th Congress came to a close, the community pharmacy industry applauded the House and Senate passage of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008. Specifically, the Coalition for Community Pharmacy Action (CCPA) cheered the inclusion of language that would allow the Department of Defense (DOD) to save billions of dollars by negotiating discounted prices on prescription drugs dispensed to TRICARE beneficiaries in retail pharmacies, as well as language to prevent increases to retail pharmacy copayments.
Unfortunately, just before the end of 2007, President Bush indicated that he would "pocket veto" the bill for reasons not related to pharmacy. The pocket veto—meaning he would neither sign nor overtly veto the bill—effectively forced Congress to go back to the drawing board and pass a compromise bill that would meet the president's approval. Thankfully, both the House and Senate were able to pass a new bill with the president's revisions, and he signed it into law in January.
During this delay, we continued to advocate for the pharmacy-related provisions of the bill. First, we supported a provision that would allow the DOD to negotiate lower prices for retail prescriptions in the TRICARE program, and a second provision that would freeze retail pharmacy prescription copayments for TRICARE beneficiaries for the fiscal year. As we have mentioned before, these provisions are essential to ensure that beneficiaries of the TRICARE program—as in other government programs—have the freedom to choose where they receive their prescription drugs and services.
As the bill moved back to Congress for revisions, the CCPA, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, and the National Community Pharmacists Association monitored the situation closely, working with key senators and representatives as well as White House officials.
The Coalition for Community Pharmacy Action (CCPA) is an alliance between the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) and the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA), which together represents more than 55,000 community pharmacies. CCPA leverages the support, effort, and infrastructure of NACDS and NCPA while engaging community pharmacy to participate and advocate on issues affecting the industry.
In the end, it was a win?win situation: TRICARE patients retained access to their pharmacy of choice, and the DOD was given the tools needed to control prescription drug costs. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that from fiscal years 2008 to 2013 the provision on discounted pricing will save the DOD $2.6 billion.
The CCPA also worked in cooperation with pharmacists in targeted districts to reach out to key members of the House and Senate—the lawmakers who will take the lead in revising the bill. We wish to thank members of the Senate and House for including these sections in the legislation, but we also want to make sure that the provisions remain a priority in the DOD legislative packages in years to come.
Retail pharmacies play a vital role in the TRICARE program—dispensing more than 55 million prescriptions in fiscal year 2006 alone—and the CCPA continues to work to ensure we can continue to provide this same, trusted service in the future.