PHARMACY

Industry poised for ‘historic paradigm change,’ NACDS chief Anderson tells pharmacy leaders

BY Jim Frederick

SAN DIEGO Retail pharmacy is going through a “historic paradigm change” as pharmacists and pharmacy leaders expand their patient-care and clinical capabilities and provide new solutions to a “broken” healthcare system undergoing rapid change. 

That was the message delivered Monday by Steve Anderson, president and CEO of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, on day two of the 2010 NACDS Pharmacy and Technology Conference. Buoyed by a series of legislative and policy-making victories –– and by the growing recognition from public and private health plan payers of the role pharmacists can play in improving patient outcomes and lowering health spending –– the pharmacy industry is poised for a “renaissance” in how pharmacy is practiced and how pharmacists collaborate with other healthcare professions, Anderson told NACDS members.

Much remains unfinished, he warned. “We need to build a case for a modern and viable reimbursement system” that takes into account pharmacy’s contributions to health and cost-effectiveness, the organization chief noted.

To that end, Anderson on Monday announced the launch of a new component of the bipartisan grassroots lobbying campaign, dubbed RxIMPACT Votes! “This is what political professionals refer to as a get-out-the-vote campaign,” he explained. “It encourages NACDS member company staff to register to vote, encourages them to volunteer for political campaigns of their choosing and then inspires them to vote on election day. This is a bipartisan program,” Anderson added, “and we will not be so bold as to tell anyone in pharmacy for whom they should vote. But we will explain why they need to vote.” 

Anderson doesn’t take personal credit, but much has been accomplished at NACDS and within the pharmacy industry since he began his watch as the organization’s spearhead in February 2007. He urged attendees to “think about the transformation of NACDS that we have discussed here since 2007: the creation of new and results-focused departments at NACDS in communications and in government affairs; telling the story of pharmacy as ‘the face of neighborhood health care;’ building our grassroots advocacy network, RxIMPACT; [and] elevating the NACDS political action committee, which supports pro-pharmacy Congressional candidates.”

The list also included “earning victories on legislation and regulations; advancing the NACDS Principles of Healthcare Reform; [and] collaborating with the National Community Pharmacists Association, state associations and other partners –– all while maintaining a compulsive focus on member-service and value,” Anderson said.

Nevertheless, Anderson reminded listeners, the pharmacy profession continues to fight a century-old battle to overcome old and highly damaging misperceptions and stereotypes. A big source of those misperceptions: the infamous and highly influential Flexner report, issued 100 years ago under the title, "Medical Education in the United States and Canada –– A Report to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching."

“This year … marks the 100th anniversary of Abraham Flexner’s work,” said NACDS’ CEO. “The Flexner report, issued in 1910 … is credited with reforming medical education. But that era is blamed for kicking pharmacy into the ditch, lumping pharmacy with what some call nonscientific disciplines, like acupuncture, naturopathy, homeopathy and chiropractic. That was 100 years ago. And we are still fighting back,” Anderson added.

“Standing before you and saying that pharmacy has achieved its rightful place in health care would be crazy,” he went on. “We are not there yet. But we have gained tremendous ground –– and at a solid clip.” Indeed, Anderson added, “While much work remains, I am confident in describing these times as a time of pharmacy renaissance. This renaissance refers to advancements of NACDS members in patient care. It also refers to recognition of this work by policy-makers, opinion leaders, the media and other healthcare providers.”

That recognition is reflected in the language contained in the mammoth, 906-page health-reform bill enacted earlier this year. The new law, Anderson said, contains “ninefold more references to pharmacy” than the Flexner report that lay the course for health care in America over the next century, “plus 19 references to pharmacists and even 10 to medication therapy management.”

Through intensive lobbying and grassroots efforts, NACDS and its members succeeded in getting many pharmacy-friendly provisions in the health-reform act. One message that was particularly effective in reaching lawmakers crafting the bill in Washington, the organization CEO said, was the key role community pharmacists can play in improving the dismal rate of medication adherence through pharmacist interventions with patients.

“Everywhere we turned, we told decision-makers about the $290 billion in annual costs that are related to poor adherence, as estimated by the New England Healthcare Institute,” Anderson said. “That’s important to understanding the value of medications, and those who help patients manage them.”

The fruit of those lobbying efforts is a health-reform overhaul that recognizes the role of pharmacy in an integrated, patient-centered, outcomes-oriented healthcare system. “Here is what we achieved,” NACDS’ leader told his audience. “Take medication therapy management; the new healthcare law includes grant and pilot programs that include MTM, and it improves the Medicare Part D MTM benefit. We have studies in which every $1 spent on MTM reduced overall health spending by $12. Members of Congress wanted to put this into action.”

Anderson also cited the progress of efforts to find “a remedy to the crushing pharmacy cuts under the Medicaid average manufacturer price model.” The new health-reform law, he reminded listeners, “says that federal upper limits [for Medicaid prescription reimbursements] will be set using a multiplier of ‘no less than’ 175%. That leaves some leeway for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and we will need to remain vigilant as this law is implemented.”

 

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PHARMACY

More progress needed in health information technology

BY Jim Frederick

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT Since the turn of the 21st century, community pharmacy and its technology allies have waged a long fight to shift the nation’s fractious healthcare system to a common communications and record-keeping platform via electronic prescribing and information technology. Those efforts — led by such companies as Surescripts, the pharmacy industry-founded e-prescribing network — have made progress. But even now, nine years after Surescripts’ launch, roughly two out of every three office-based physicians are scribbling their patients’ prescriptions out on a pad instead of routing them to a pharmacy electronically.

(THE NEWS: White House report on health IT, innovation hailed by e-prescribing pioneer Surescripts. For the full story, click here)

Now that the Obama Administration has unveiled more details of its massive economic stimulus plan for the U.S. economy and, in particular, for the health care industry, the conversion rate among family doctors could accelerate quickly. It’s no surprise that Surescripts CEO Harry Totonis was jubilant at the release of the government’s new report on recovery and innovation.

On Tuesday, VP Joe Biden himself unveiled the report, called “The Recovery Act: Transforming the American Economy Through Innovation.” The report strongly endorses the effort to convert the physician community to paperless prescribing.

In clear recognition of the role e-prescribing can play in a more efficient health system, the White House included Totonis on its guest list at Biden’s release of the innovation stimulus report. The Surescripts CEO expressed strong support for the government’s efforts to drive the health information technology revolution.

By pushing incentives to doctors who convert to digital prescribing, along with federal-private industry pilot projects and clear standards for health IT, “the government has played a leading role in encouraging the adoption of e-prescribing,” Totonis said. The report, he added, “goes further to recognize the greater benefit of e-prescribing and the sharing of medication information [for] saving lives, time and money and improving the quality of care.” 

Despite the nation’s stubbornly high unemployment figures, rising deficits and fears of a double-dip recession, the White House maintains that the massive stimulus outlays will lead to long-term recovery. “With over $787 billion in funding, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is one of the single boldest and largest investments in the U.S. economy in the nation’s history,” the administration points out in its position statement. “The Recovery Act’s design was three-fold: to rescue a rapidly deteriorating economy; put the country on a path to recovery by putting Americans back to work quickly; and reinvest in the country’s long-term economic future, building a foundation for a new, more robust, and competitive American economy.”

More than $100 billion of those funds are allocated for “innovative and transformative programs,” the White House asserts, and could lead to “game-changing breakthroughs … and in some cases, new American industries.”

The $100 billion will spur “innovation and technology deployment” across a wide range of industries, according to the language of the Recovery Act, including renewable energy and energy efficiency, high-speed rail, broadband access and biofuels. But for pharmacies, physician groups and other health care stakeholders, one segment of that innovation stimulus is key: the $19 billion that will go toward health information technology.

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Winning Brands products soon to appear on pharmacy shelves

BY Alaric DeArment

LOS ANGELES Winning Brands soon will begin selling its cleaning products at independent pharmacies, the company said.

The company, which makes such products as Winning Colours stain remover, will market the products in retail pharmacies through the American Pharmacy Cooperative, Inc.

“APCI is an important organization,” Winning Brands CEO Eric Lehner stated. “There are over 20,000 independent pharmacies in the United States that would benefit from adding Winning Colours stain remover to their product mix.”

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