Published Online: Saturday, April 1, 2006

While President Bush was suggesting that pharmacists may be "overcharging" for prescription drugs, his top official at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) was praising the profession for its assistance in getting the new Medicare Part D drug program through its problemplagued launch.

"The efforts of pharmacists over the last month have been nothing short of heroic," HHS Secretary Michael O. Leavitt said in a progress report on the first 30 days of the new prescription benefit for the elderly. "I've visited with and heard from pharmacists all over the country," and "they have been selfless, compassionate, and committed to service," he said.

Leavitt cited examples of community pharmacists "who provided 3- to 5-day supplies of medicines to beneficiaries without payment—and often no expectation of one—until things could be straightened out" with the new Rx program.

The HHS secretary acknowledged the efforts of Alabama pharmacist Danny Cottrell, who single-handedly "enrolled about 1400 of the people he serves into a prescription drug plan that was right for them."

Noting that many of the nation's "heroic" pharmacists are concerned about the payment terms negotiated with health plans that enroll Part D patients, Leavitt promised that the HHS would monitor this situation.

"Pharmacists should expect to be paid in accordance with their plan contracts," he said. "I can—and will—take corrective action if a plan is not in compliance."

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