FEBRUARY 01, 2006

McKesson's Health Across America tour is ending this spring. The nationwide campaign, which was launched in May 2005, was created to stress the important role community pharmacists play in the health care system. The second leg of the tour focused on education about the new Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit and emphasized the key role community pharmacists play as advisers to their patients.

Marty Gentry, PharmD, co-owner of Dickson Apothecary in Dickson, Tenn, believes that education is part of the job. "Whether it's helping [patients] get their medicine or pick a drug plan that is best for them, it's our job."

McKesson, wholesaler for Dickson Apothecary, approached Dr. Gentry about speaking with patients about the new drug plan during the tour's stop in Tennessee in November 2005. Dr. Gentry arranged for conference space at Horizon Medical Center in Dickson for patients to learn about Medicare Part D, ask questions, and enroll. "Many of my patients felt the meeting helped them more than getting the [Medicare] booklet. [The booklet] was a very big text with a lot of writing, and it scared a lot of them,"he said.

The first week of the enrollment process was very busy at Dickson Apothecary's 3 locations. Dr. Gentry commented that it was a "smooth process." To help with the continued transition, the retail pharmacy has appointment hours for patients to ask questions and enroll in a plan. "We're seeing that this age group doesn't have access [to] or know how to use the Internet."Therefore, the pharmacy plans to continue with individual appointments until after the enrollment closes in May 2006.

Although there have been reports of problems with the prescription drug plan, overall, Dr. Gentry said, "I believe it's a good program. As with any new plan, there will be glitches, and they're being worked out."