"One Strong Voice"

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Pharmacy Times, Volume 0, 0

It is tough to make your voice heard inCongress—and for too long pharmacyhas often been a loser whenCongress creates new legislation.

With an increasing number of legislativeissues that directly affect us, thisproblem is becoming even more important.It is not just Part D. Many otherthreats are looming, such as changes inMedicaid reimbursement and mandatorymail order for military personnel.

This is why a recent initiative by theNational Community Pharmacists Associationand the National Association ofChain Drug Stores is a promising one. The2 organizations have formed the Coalitionfor Community Pharmacy Action, whichpromises to represent community pharmacieswith "one strong voice."

To quote the coalition's Web site(www.rxaction.org), "For the first timein the history of the pharmacy profession,all of the nation's 55,000 communitypharmacies—both chain and independent—will be represented with asingle voice on legislative and regulatoryissues of common interest."

Let's hope this coalition can live upto that goal. It is vital that we present aunited front in order to maximize ourinfluence.

Signs are visible that the sponsoringassociations are serious. The coalitionhas a multimillion-dollar annual budget—much more than pharmacy organizationshave previously spent on legislativeactivities.

Could the coalition be more effective ifit was even broader? When forming thecoalition, the associations talked toanother group that has been remarkablyeffective at drawing attention to pharmacists' concerns.

The group is the Association ofCommunity Pharmacists CongressionalNetwork (ACPCN). You may have heardof—or participated in—one of its best-knowncampaigns, triggered by PresidentBush's notorious comment lastyear about preventing overcharging bypharmacists. Pharmacists mailed lawmakerspill bottles containing a penny,with a note explaining that this was thecurrent value of their pharmacies as aresult of Part D and other initiatives.

Could pharmacy's larger institutionslearn from this group? Certainly—and weare glad that they have been talking.Might it become even more closelyinvolved with the coalition? The ACPCNsays it has not been invited to join, andsince it is not a membership organizationand is solely focused on legislativechanges, it can continue to work with allcommunity pharmacists.

Whatever happens, we do not havetime to spare.

Mr. Eckel is professor and director ofthe Office of Practice Developmentand Education at the School ofPharmacy, University of NorthCarolina at Chapel Hill.