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Anderson rallies the Rx troops

BY Jim Frederick

BOSTON

Painting a stark but hopeful picture of the threats that surround community pharmacy, the recently installed chief of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores called on pharmacy leaders here to become aggressive advocates for their industry and to join forces in an all-out push for respect and recognition from policy-makers, patients and the larger healthcare community.

In his first address to attendees of the annual NACDS Pharmacy & Technology Conference, organization president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson called on those affiliated with pharmacy care to become active with the issues and to stay active. Much of the industry’s future, he said, rides on the success of public information and communications efforts, and on grassroots lobbying for change at the federal and state levels.

“An association is only as strong as its members, and any campaign needs willing foot soldiers,” Anderson told conference attendees Aug. 13. “We have to speak with one, consistent voice about the value of pharmacy—to policymakers, to legislators, to opinion leaders, to educators, to the media and to consumers.

“We in community pharmacy will never earn the influence we need or the respect we deserve if we don’t do a better job of telling our story,” added Anderson, who cited his own background as a Capitol Hill lobbying veteran before coming to NACDS. “With federal and state governments making nearly half of all healthcare payments in the United States, and in an industry literally shaped by government rules and regulations, the biggest mistake we can make is to communicate too little.

“There’s no way this industry will turn around unless we push for meaningful change,” Anderson said.

Using military analogies that befitted the embattled state of pharmacy retailing in 2007, Anderson invoked the Duke of Wellington, who defeated Napoleon’s army at Waterloo. Like Wellington, he told NACDS members, “We have been marching toward the sound of gunfire” in recent months.

“Now, we are engaged in pitched battles,” Anderson continued, over threats like declining Medicaid prescription reimbursements and a lack of influence in Washington policy-making debates over the future of health care and the role and value of pharmacy care initiatives.

Anderson has led an overhaul of the organization to make it more responsive to challenges from policymakers, opinion leaders and others who undermine community pharmacy’s role in healthcare delivery.

Among the changes: creation of a rapid response system to counter misleading or erroneous information or reports about retail pharmacy, a beefed-up lobbying and public information effort to advocate on behalf of the industry and the pharmacy profession, and the acceleration of bridge-building efforts with other pharmacy and retail organizations.

“We must work closely with others in community pharmacy,” said NACDS’ chief executive. “For too long, this industry did not. And you paid the price time and again when better organized associations and coalitions had better access when it came to legislation, regulations and rule-making in government.”

The aim, he added, is “to fully leverage our numbers to communicate the value of pharmacy” and to “demonstrate the extent to which misguided policy decisions threaten Americans’ access to pharmacy services.”

Anderson cited successful coalition-building examples. “We have joined forces to create the Coalition for Community Pharmacy Action, the Pharmacy Quality Alliance and Project Destiny, a new initiative to develop business models and communications that could guide community pharmacy’s future role in the delivery of health care.

Anderson urged pharmacy leaders “to take more risks, not only in building coalitions, but in reaching out to a broad constituency.” Acknowledging that community pharmacy is “going to be on the other side of some powerful constituencies” on many issues of vital concern to NACDS members, he added, “we cannot always compete dollar for dollar or ad for ad. But we can compete on our principles … on the value we bring, and … on the image and the reputation of community pharmacy.”

The process of turning back threatening regulations and policies—and of fully establishing pharmacy’s value in the minds of patients and policymakers—must start in pharmacy schools, where some 50,000 students are taking their first steps toward a career in pharmacy, Anderson said. “Few if any new pharmacists are educated in public policy as it affects the practice of pharmacy, and the critical role reimbursement, regulations and health policy will play in daily life and their professional future,” he told his audience.

“Schools of pharmacy must prepare students to understand health policy and advocate on behalf of pharmacy,” Anderson urged. “NACDS must lead that process, as should all pharmacy associations and professional organizations.”

Anderson urged pharmacy leaders who gathered for the annual event to join in NACDS’ work to shape the debate on policy issues, and to broaden the scattered demonstration projects documenting the work of community pharmacy to enhance health care. The broad mission, he indicated, is a long-term battle against counterproductive policies.

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Jeffrey Dunn joins American Greetings’ board

BY Doug Desjardins

CLEVELAND American Greetings has appointed Jeffrey Dunn to its board of directors where he’ll fill a vacancy for a term set to expire in 2008. Dunn most recently served as president of Nickelodeon Film Enterprises and as chief operating officer of Nickelodeon Networks Group.

“We are delighted to have Jeff join us,” said chief executive officer Zev Weiss. “American Greetings will benefit from his business acumen and expertise, particularly with regard to digital content and licensing.” Dunn graduated from Harvard and went on to earn an MBA from Harvard Business School.

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FujiFilm Offers Pre-Paid Mailers

BY Doug Desjardins

VALHALLA, N.Y. FujiFilm has debuted pre-paid mailers that make it easier for customers to have their film processed and delivered to their homes. The new program allows customers to buy the pre-paid mailers when they purchase their Fuji film or single-use camera.

“This program offers the consumer value and convenience,” said Rafi Haqqani, senior product manager for one-time-use cameras for Fujifilm. “It brings quality Fujicolor processing right to the consumers’ doorstep with easy-to-use postage-paid mailers.”

The suggested retail price for the pre-paid film mailer is $15.99 and the pre-paid single-use camera mailer is $17.99. Prints come in the standard 4 x 6 size and are mailed back in 7-10 days.

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