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A new chapter is beginning for the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS). The top officials of the 2 organizations have pledged to work together for the benefit of all their members. "We're making an ongoing attempt to align our organizations more closely to make sure we're speaking with a common voice," said Registered Pharmacist Bruce Roberts, NCPA executive vice president and chief executive officer.
The NCPA leader and Robert Hannan, NACDS interim president and chief executive officer, met on April 4, 2006, with Mark McClellan, MD, PhD, administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. They discussed a number of issues, including the Budget Reconciliation Act and the Average Manufacturer Price (AMP)-based method for the payment of drug costs. Starting on January 1, 2007, state Medicaid programs will be required to implement this new benchmark for pharmacy reimbursement. The new payment process will replace the Average Wholesale Price-based method. Pharmacists are worried that under the new model they will be reimbursed for generic drug costs well below the actual cost of the product.
Therefore, the officials are urging Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt, who has the final say in defining AMP, to define it as closely as possible to the true cost of drugs. "We don't know where he's going [with the final determination of AMP]," added Roberts. He said that pharmacists need to be seen as partners with the federal government in driving generic drug use.
The officials of both organizations agree that pharmacy has not fared well in the legislative arena. Roberts pointed out that 37% of pharmacy business is done with the federal government. Therefore, the organizations are forming a coalition to focus on the legislative area."We have to make our voices heard in Washington. We can't be sending mixed messages, and we have to make sure we communicate so we don't surprise one another," said Roberts.
He believes that Anthony Civello, NACDS chairman, who is president and chief executive officer of Kerr Drug, understands the importance of one voice. "We want Mark [McClellan] to look at us as a partner."
The key is that NACDS and NCPA "deliver a common message and build political clout. We need to accomplish a paradigm shift to a new model for pharmacy," Roberts said.
He also noted the importance of partnering with health plans to ensure that pharmacy's needs are being met. He said he was pleased that a lot of insurance plans are eliminating pharmacy benefit managers. "There's a lot of dissatisfaction with them. It's exciting to see the plans want to change the model."
Roberts admitted that there had been problems in the past with the associations supporting each other. "There's guilt on both sides. Sometimes an association's politics get in the way." He said that the associations' differences sometimes resulted in "giving Congress a free pass and a reason to ignore them."
The 2 organizations' officials hope to leave the past behind and forge ahead with a commitment to continue a constant dialogue and to have their staffs working together. "It's a fairly logical approach," he added. In fact, Roberts was asked to attend the Board of Directors Meeting at the NACDS Annual Meeting that concluded on May 1?for the first time.
The meeting with Dr. McClellan came a day after Hannan began his tenure as the NACDS leader. Hannan was asked to head the association after his predecessor, Craig Fuller, resigned. Fuller's resignation came after the organization's executive board conveyed that they wanted a new direction and leadership. Hannan previously had served as interim NACDS president in 1999 after the departure of Ron Ziegler.
As for his opinion on who should take the reins at NACDS, Roberts said he has expressed to Civello that it should be "somebody that understands the marketplace and is absolutely committed to the profession and not as a stepping stone for something else."