editor'sNOTE: A Strong Voice in Congress
Mr. Eckel is professor and director of the Office of Practice Development and Education at the School of Pharmacy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
One bright spot during a tough year has been the way that community pharmacy has come together to promote our message to legislators, and there are signs that we already are beginning to achieve a higher profile in Congress.
Recently, more than 3 dozen legislators sympathetic to our position formed the first community pharmacy caucus— a potentially powerful ally. The cochairs of the Congressional Community Pharmacy Coalition include several primary sponsors of propharmacy bills, among them Rep Marion Berry (D, Ark), a pharmacist himself and a strong community pharmacy supporter.
Cochair Jerry Moran (R, Kan) said that, because major bills are often closely contested, even a relatively small voting group can exert influence by advocating provisions important to community pharmacy.
The formation of this caucus has occurred at a time when community pharmacy has been vigorously increasing its legislative activities. One indication of this is the National Community Pharmacists Association's (NCPA) growing resources. Its political action committee (PAC) has become one of the top 50 trade association PACs.
In another promising initiative, NCPA and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores formed the Coalition for Community Pharmacy Action (CCPA) to promote pharmacy views on legislative and regulatory issues.
Pharmacists nationwide responded to calls from another group, the Association of Community Pharmacists * Congressional Network, which played a key role in promoting legislation that would allow pharmacies to jointly negotiate drug pricing. These actions helped prompt House Judiciary Committee passage of HR 971, the Community Pharmacy Fairness Act.
State initiatives are moving ahead, too. Our community pharmacy association in North Carolina supports 2-month congressional internships for pharmacy students, and we hope that this approach will expand to other associations. By enabling pharmacy students, we are ensuring that the next generation of pharmacists will be better positioned to influence policy.
The contributions of pharmacists across the country are making change possible. One way to learn more about how to get involved is to listen to the online course, Pharmacy Grassroots: How to Be an Advocate for Your Profession, which is available on our Web site, www.PharmacyTimes.com/ceWebinars.cfm.
We have reason for enthusiasm about the potential for the coming year. As our voice becomes more widely heard, we could begin to see real change.