nacds SPEAKS OUT: One Voice Is Critical in Pharmacy Today

NOVEMBER 01, 2006
Robert W. Hannan

As they say, there is strength in numbers. Community pharmacy has put this to the test and can say without a doubt that it is true! The recent decision by Congress to forgo the mandatory mail-order provision for military active-duty and retirees, all part of the Defense Authorization Act, was a testament to the fact that with "one voice" community pharmacy can be relevant and have a positive impact. This one voice resonated with legislators in Washington loud and clear, all through the efforts of the Coalition for Community Pharmacy Action, a true partnership between the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) and the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA). Pharmacists and military beneficiaries nationwide sent >100,000 e-mails and letters and placed calls to the offices of their congressional representatives over the past 2 months urging them to continue to provide military beneficiaries the choice to use community pharmacy for their medications instead of mail order.

While we are pleased with the decision to continue providing choice to our military personnel, our work is not over. Plans are being developed to continue to work with the Department of Defense to assist in the implementation of this critical piece of legislation and to continue to find additional ways to reduce the costs of products for the retail portion of the prescription program.

Another example of how one voice can have significant impact in the industry is through a collaborative initiative between community pharmacy and the pharmaceutical industry.

Recently, NACDS, NCPA, and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) came together to discuss the issue of how the value of prescription medications coupled with the medication-related services provided by pharmacists can be better understood by patients and payers of health care.

The value of medicines can be demonstrated through the ongoing advancements in drug discovery, leading to more innovative therapies and patients living longer. Pharmacists can play a complementary and valuable role by helping patients understand their medications and the important long-term health outcome of taking them as prescribed. It is only by the combination of the 2, pharmaceuticals and pharmacy services, that the true value of what we do is accomplished. One term that we have been using to describe our efforts is "the dual value message."

You may be wondering why this is such an important issue that it warrants the tremendous resources of 3 organizations' efforts. As you know, the US health care system is faced with tremendous challenges, especially in the area of escalating costs. The critical question facing payers of health care today is how to deliver quality care at a lesser cost to the system. For years, the focus to accomplish this goal was on the cost drivers, which were primarily the price of pharmaceuticals. Recently, the focus has shifted away from costs to the longer-term benefits of delivering quality care. Research has shown that overall health care costs can decline if patients understand their medications and take their medications as prescribed. This is where the pharmacist comes into play. Pharmacists are uniquely positioned and equipped to maximize the value of medicines through the implementation of expanded patient services.

This will be an important collaborative effort for our industry, and it can also demonstrate that by speaking with one voice, our message will be heard. The meetings have just begun, and I will continue to share some of the work of this group as we progress.

Mr. Hannan is serving as president and chief executive officer of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.