PHARMACY

Urging stronger grassroots efforts, NACDS unveils RxIMPACT initiative

BY Jim Frederick

CHANDLER, Ariz. Addressing the organization’s 28th annual Regional Chain Conference, leaders of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores exhorted smaller-chain pharmacy operators to help defend the industry from burdensome patient-privacy regulations and other threats, and to rally behind a new grassroots advocacy initiative.

That initiative, called RxIMPACT, marks an acceleration of NACDS efforts to “engage members and the communities they serve by learning how to interact with lawmakers through advocacy and training programs, pharmacy tours, Capitol Hill visits and other personalized grassroots services,” noted an organization spokesperson. NACDS will hold its first RxIMPACT Day on Capitol Hill on June 16 to 17, 2009.

The need for effective and sustained grassroots lobbying won’t wait that long, however, NACDS president Steven Anderson and newly elected chairman Andy Giancamilli told regional chain members at the conference here. And among the most critical and immediate priorities is the campaign by NACDS and other advocacy groups to slow the rush in Congress to adopt new privacy provisions that industry leaders say would damage pharmacist-patient relationships, slow the adoption of health information technology and hike business costs for pharmacy retailers.

Those tougher privacy laws are contained in new legislation to spur the adoption of HIT as part of the massive economic stimulus bill now under consideration in the Senate. But given the patient confidentiality protections already in place under HIPAA regulations, those privacy provisions are ill-conceived and unnecessary, NACDS leaders told members at the conference.

“Sometimes,” Anderson asserted, “an issue is propelled by the political sails of what I call ‘faulty nomenclature.’ Faulty nomenclature is the use of politically popular terms to describe what is in reality poor policy. In this case, that term is ‘privacy.’”

Anderson reiterated NACDS’ support of HIT, but noted the unintended consequences of so-called “privacy” provisions that he said would impact the entire healthcare delivery system. “We need to assure Congress that we know privacy, and this isn’t it,” he said. “We need to let Congress know that the unintended consequences of what they are considering could actually hinder HIT adoption, stunt economic stimulus and, most importantly, harm patient care.

“Does Congress really want to stifle prescription refill reminders? That could make even worse the $177 billion in annual costs – and health consequences – from failure to take medications as prescribed,” Anderson added.

In his first address as NACDS chairman, Giancamilli appealed to members to engage directly with the political process as a new, Democratic majority in Congress grapples with the complexities of healthcare reform and technology. “The future direction of the industry hinges on the willingness of NACDS members to engage in the public policy debates of the day, since affecting our short- and long-term future is the primary reason we all choose to participate in associations like this one,” said Giancamilli, who is CEO of Katz Group North America and its U.S. subsidiary, Snyder’s Drug Stores. “But now we need even more members to engage in powering the NACDS advocacy engine.”

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AstraZeneca announces plans to lay off 6,000 employees by 2013

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK Drug maker AstraZeneca plans to lay off 6,000 employees by 2013, the Anglo-Swedish company announced Thursday.

The layoffs add to the 9,000 jobs AstraZeneca said it would cut in 2007. The company has 65,000 employees.

Amid the worldwide economic downturn, several drug makers have announced layoffs. Pfizer announced this week that it would lay off more than 8,000 workers as part of its acquisition of Wyeth.

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Bartell Drugs to offer free health screenings at 11 of its stores in Feb.

BY Alaric DeArment

SEATTLE Bartell Drugs, which operates stores in the Seattle area, said it would offer free health screenings at 11 of its stores next month. The stores will offer tests for blood glucose, cholesterol and blood pressure in partnership with One Touch, Nature Made and CIA Health Screenings. Customers will receive results immediately.

“We are extremely pleased to offer these screenings, because the results can provide our customers with important front-line indicators in the fight against diabetes, heart disease and stroke,” chairman and CEO George Bartell said in a statement.

The screenings will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day of the month starting Feb. 16.

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