March 27, 2014, Arlington, Va. — Citing the importance of advancing policies that control healthcare costs and preserve patient access to the nation’s community pharmacies, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) urged the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services, Subcommittee on Personnel to help preserve pharmacy access and choice for TRICARE patients. The subcommittee held a hearing this week titled, “Active, Guard, Reserve and Civilian Personnel Programs.”
In a written statement to the subcommittee, NACDS emphasized that local pharmacies are not only a reliable, convenient source for obtaining prescription drugs, but also a healthcare destination.
“The proximity of community pharmacies to each and every American and pharmacists’ exceptional knowledge and training render pharmacies uniquely positioned to provide care for the American public,” NACDS said in its statement.
The comments cite concerns about proposed changes in the President’s FY2015 Budget to pharmacy co-payments that would shift TRICARE patients away from local pharmacies and into the TRICARE Mail Order Pharmacy program. This action would severely limit the ability of beneficiaries to obtain non-formulary medications from their neighborhood pharmacy.
“NACDS supports cost savings initiatives that preserve patient choice, but threatening beneficiary access to prescription medications and their preferred healthcare provider will only increase the use of more costly medical interventions, such as physician and emergency room visits and hospitalizations,” NACDS said in its statement.
NACDS cites another cost-savings solution is increasing the use of generic drugs by TRICARE beneficiaries. The Department of Defense’s (DoD) own analysis reveals that in the case of generic medications, mail order is more expensive than obtaining them from a retail community pharmacy.
“Partnering with local pharmacists, modest increases in generic utilization by TRICARE beneficiaries would have a dramatic impact on the DoD budget,” NACDS said in its statement.
DoD has also recognized the cost-effectiveness of pharmacist-provided vaccinations and has authorized TRICARE patients to obtain vaccinations at a retail network pharmacy for a $0 co-payment. In its final rule expanding the authority of retail pharmacies to provide vaccinations, the Department cites cost-savings of nearly $1.5 million by expanding the portfolio of vaccines that TRICARE patients may obtain from community pharmacies.
“Ensuring that TRICARE beneficiaries have ready access to vaccine supplies allocated to private sector pharmacies will facilitate making vaccines appropriately available to high risk groups of TRICARE beneficiaries,” NACDS said in its statement.
In its comments also emphasizes the overall enhanced role of community pharmacy, including medication counseling and medication therapy management services to help patients take their medications as prescribed.
“Policymakers have begun to recognize the vital role that local pharmacists can play in improving medication adherence,” NACDS said in its statement, citing a growing body of evidence that improving medication adherence — including use of MTM to help patients take medications as prescribed – helps to enhance patient health and improve healthcare affordability.
Reports by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), as well as articles in Health Affairs and the Journal of American Pharmacists, offer further support that appropriate medication use can improve health while lowering costs.
“NACDS and the chain pharmacy industry are committed to partnering with Congress, the Department of Defense (DoD), and other healthcare providers to improve the quality and affordability of healthcare services,” NACDS said in its statement.