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NACDS leadership: Retail pharmacy poised for even bigger role in health care
August 30th, 2010
SAN DIEGO – Already a core health care provider, retail pharmacy stands to play an even larger part in patient care as health care reform amplifies the call for more affordable, accessible services, National Association of Chain Drug Stores leaders said at the NACDS Pharmacy & Technology Conference here.
NACDS chairman Larry Merlo, president and chief operating officer at CVS Caremark Corp., on Monday described the path of pharmacy and health reform as a "journey" toward improved patient care.
And in an earlier address on Monday at the event, which began over the weekend and runs to Aug. 31, NACDS president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson pointed to a "pharmacy renaissance," in which the industry's health care capabilities are advancing and gaining broad recognition.
From maximizing the patient-pharmacist relationship to leveraging technology such as pharmacogenomics and electronic prescribing, pharmacy is delivering meaningful solutions for health care quality, access and cost — in turn creating a "call to action" for the industry with direct benefits for patient health, according to Merlo.
"If we agree that expansion of access through health care reform makes sense, we need to begin the work on the cost and quality side of the equation," he explained. "Pharmacy has the opportunity to be a key contributor to lowering health care costs over the long term."
Citing the surge in e-prescribing, Merlo said such advancements will help pharmacists and doctors collaborate more effectively and raise the level of patient care and health care quality. "Not only does this [e-prescribing] benefit pharmacy from a safety and productivity perspective, it also provides researchers more visibility to areas of nonadherence, once again, allowing us to drive better outcomes," he noted.
Merlo called pharmacists growing role in providing vaccinations "one of the more significant catalysts in moving our profession from a dispensing role to one of patient care." He also noted the emergence of pharmacogenomics, which refers to genetic testing that can help provide patients with "the right drug, for the right person, at the right dose."
And perhaps the best example of pharmacy's potential in bolstering patient care while providing more efficient and effective health services is via medication therapy management (MTM) and collaborative practice agreements with doctors, Merlo stated.
"We're positioned to help control the costs of health care by advocating for the value of what I'm calling pharmacy care — by definition, the cost effective treatment of disease, particularly chronic disease, through better mechanisms to promote adherence and effectiveness," he said. "I think one can see how the pharmacist is front and center as an important part of the solution."
Anderson, too, emphasized pharmacy's rising prominence as a readily accessible point of care for multitudes of patients, pointing to NACDS' success in cementing the industry's identity as "the face of neighborhood health care."
"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 policymakers, opinion leaders, the media and other health care providers," he explained.
"We may not all agree on whether the health care law is good or bad for the country, or good or bad for health care generally," Anderson added. "However, there is vast agreement that health care reform's pharmacy provisions are good for pharmacy patient care and set the stage for a historic paradigm change for pharmacy."
Anderson described the health reform law's pharmacy provisions, including those related to advancement of pharmacist-provided MTM; reductions in the Medicaid pharmacy cuts under the average manufacturer price (AMP) model; preserving seniors' access to pharmacies for their durable medical equipment (DME) needs; expansion of Medicaid coverage; the closing of the "doughnut hole" in Medicare Part D; and maintenance of Medicare Part D vaccine coverage.
In addition, he stressed that NACDS' focus on health care reform will continue as federal agencies implement the new law through regulations and as Congress engages in further legislative activity, including the advance of bills introduced in the Senate and the House of Representatives that would build on the MTM provisions of the new law.
"Despite all of these victories, there is no way we are going to rest here. We can't," Anderson remarked. "This is about the needs of patients. This is about the expertise and the passion of pharmacists, which can help meet those needs."