Community Pharmacists Call on Congress for Legislative Support

Pharmacists gather on capitol hill to garner Congressional support for pharmacy- and patient-focused legislation.

This week, community pharmacists will gather in Washington, DC, to advocate for patients and their pharmacies, during the National Community Pharmacists Association’s (NCPA) 2017 Congressional Pharmacy Fly-In.

During this time, pharmacists will meet with Congress to underscore the importance of legislation that improves patient access to prescription drugs, according to a press release. Additionally, there will be an advertising campaign to support the effort.

The independent community pharmacists will advocate for a number of proposed legislation, including:

  • Improving Transparency and Accuracy in Medicare Part D Spending

HR 1038/S 143 was introduced by Reps Morgan Griffith (R-VA) and Peter Welch (D-VT). This legislation would stop pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) from charging retroactive direct and indirect remuneration (DIR) fees. In a previous statement, NCPA endorsed the bill and said that DIR fees threaten the viability of community pharmacies.

“It’s hard for a small pharmacy to survive when the prices are unpredictable and they’re always changing,” Griffith said over the phone. “I think it’s a bill about fairness and trying to make sure that small pharmacies are treated fairly. It applies to the large pharmacies too, but particularly, it hurts the small pharmacies that don’t have the extra ability to eat the loss that someone else has decided to charge after the fact.”

  • Creating Prescription Drug Price Transparency

HR 1316, introduced by Congressman Doug Collins (R-GA), would require increased transparency from PBMs regarding generic drug pricing. Collins states that some PBMs may alter the prices on their maximum allowable cost lists to those below a pharmacy’s costs, which forces pharmacists to take a financial loss to serve their customers. This causes pharmacies to take on significant debt, and can result in bankruptcy.

  • Ensuring Seniors Access to Local Pharmacies

HR 1939 was also introduced by Reps Morgan Griffith (R-VA) and Peter Welch (D-VT). The legislation would amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to improve care for beneficiaries by including community pharmacies located in unserved areas in the Part D program. NCPA previously said that this bill would increase access for patients, while increasing Part D competition.

“Sometimes a map doesn’t tell the whole story,” Griffith said. “The network says your preferred pharmacy is in the other town — they look at a map and say it’s only 6 or 8 miles apart. On the map, they’re right. In real-life circumstances, for folks who are elderly, who are trying to deal with weather conditions, and need to get to their preferred pharmacy in order to get their drugs, a lot of the time they’re not going to be able to do it.”

At that time, elderly patients will either go without their medication or if possible, have someone else pick up their prescriptions.

“We shouldn’t put our elderly citizens in underserved rural areas to the extreme, which is why I’ve been proud to introduce the bill,” Griffith said.

  • Obtaining Pharmacist Provider Status

This year, Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) re-introduced S 109/HR 592. This bill encourages pharmacists to provide health and wellness screenings, immunizations, and diabetes management services to elderly Americans. The bill would authorize Medicare payments to pharmacists who are licensed to provide specific services. This legislation would improve patient health, while also allowing community pharmacists to have a bigger role in patient care, according to NCPA.

NCPA previously issued statements in support of the various legislation the pharmacists will be advocating for, as the organization believes the bills would improve overall patient health.

The community pharmacists will also call on Congress to keep in mind the importance of patient access to prescription medication when devising a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, according to the release.

Preserving access to prescription drugs may come in the form of maintaining access to retail pharmacies, keeping essential health benefits, preserving Part D improvements for medication management services, and keeping the current average manufacturer price used for Medicaid fee-for-service reimbursements, NCPA reported.

“Community pharmacists see firsthand every day the importance of assuring patient access to their prescription drug therapy. There’s an important national discussion about prescription drug coverage and affordability that continues today. Independent community pharmacists are part of the solution both through greater transparency and achieving better health outcomes through proper medication use,” said B. Douglas Hoey, MBA, RPh, NCPA CEO. “Community pharmacists will also educate members of Congress this week about their experiences with pharmacy benefit managers’ pricing games and offer legislative solutions to make drug middlemen more transparent and accountable, which in turn will improve health outcomes for patients overall and bend the cost curve.”