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NCPA: Energy ‘positive’ during 116th Annual Convention
AUSTIN, Texas — Hundreds of attendees gathered in Austin, Texas, to attend the National Community Pharmacists Association’s 116th Annual Convention and Trade Exposition — a meeting marked with positive energy and optimism for the future of community pharmacy.
“This is the first time in NCPA’s 116-year history that we’ve been in Austin and it has been a great meeting for us,” NCPA CEO B. Douglas Hoey said during a media briefing on Tuesday. “… The personality of this meeting is one of positive energy and really looking toward the future. It has been an exciting time in Austin."
Roughly 300 attendees flocked to the Austin Convention Center to attend the event, held Oct. 18 to 22.
During Hoey’s Convention address, he highlighted several key issues that, according to an NCPA survey in late 2013, are top of mind for NCPA members. NCPA represents the interests of America's community pharmacists, including the owners of more than 23,000 independent community pharmacies.
The critical issues Hoey addressed include:
- The exclusion of independent and regional pharmacies from Part D preferred networks. Responding to the concern and ramping up efforts to resolve the issue, the NCPA “has seen what appears to be some demonstrable progress in allowing independent community pharmacies and regional chains to be able to participate in Part D preferred networks in 2015,” Hoey said. However, more work lies ahead and Hoey stressed that it is “not a case of declaring victory, but it is certainly a case of declaring major progress.”
- Reimbursements on generic medications are trailing increasing generic pricing. “Over the last year and a half, hundreds of generic prices have been exploding in price. For example, a common steroid cream going from $100 for a tube to $250 for a tube, and that’s a real example. … It is really standing on its head the conventional wisdom that generic products are always less expensive than brands. While that is still usually true, it is no longer an automatic,” Hoey said. “So, because of that change in the marketplace it has really exacerbated a practice in our industry and that is when the price goes up on the product the payment rate to the pharmacy does not go up.” Hoey said NCPA has asked Congress to look into why generic drug prices are soaring and there’s a lag in the changes to pharmacy rates.
- Pay-for-performance networks of pharmacy. “With CMS’ quality measures tied to star ratings, there is a high interest both by pharmacies and by payors in increasing the plan star ratings through these quality measures,” Hoey explained. “We are encouraging pharmacies to increase those quality measures to get them as high as possible, but we also think that pharmacies are going to begin developing networks based on these quality measures.” Hoey went on to highlight NCPA’s “Simplify My Meds” medication synchronization program to boost adherence. More than 2,000 independent pharmacies have signed up for the program and have enrolled more than 75,000 patients who are now experiencing better adherence and outcomes. Meanwhile, many other pharmacies are participating in similar programs to improve patient medication adherence.
In providing an update on the legislative and regulatory front, Steve Pfister, NCPA SVP, government affairs, said NCPA continues to reach out to Congress in support of H.R. 4577, The Ensuring Seniors Access to Local Pharmacies Act, which was introduced in May.
Another priority among NCPA members is H.R. 4437, the Generic Drug Pricing Transparency Act, Pfister said. “Perhaps most significantly, as far as developments on the generic pricing issue, is what has occurred over the last couple of weeks."
On Oct. 2, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Sen. Bernard Sanders, chairman of the Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging, Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, sent letters to 14 drug manufacturers requesting information about the higher prices they have been charging for generic drugs. This has since been followed up with a letter to HHS, calling on the Obama Administration to look into the price spikes, Pfister said.
“We will continue to monitor this closely and we are very hopeful that during the lame duck session of Congress that there will be an oversight hearing conducted on this issue, which has been very problematic for community pharmacy,” Pfister said.