Amid all the turmoil in retailing, health care and government, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores continues to distinguish itself through steadfast advocacy of community pharmacy. By exercising patience and persistence, while at the same time possessing the readiness to seize opportunities whenever and wherever they arise, NACDS delivers meaningful results for its member companies and the people they serve.
Several developments in recent weeks illustrate the impact that the association has on issues that affect pharmacy. In mid-September the Senate passed a series of measures designed to counter the opioid abuse epidemic that includes the NACDS-backed Every Prescription Conveyed Securely Act. Introduced by Sens. Michael Bennett (D., Colo.) and Dean Heller (R., Nev.), the legislation would — with limited exceptions to ensure that patients who have a legitimate need for such medications have access to them — require electronic prescribing for most controlled substances dispensed under the Medicare Part D program.
The House earlier passed similar legislation introduced by Reps. Katherine Clark (D., Mass.) and Markwayne Mullin (R., Okla.). A conference committee will now try to hammer out differences between the two measures and other bills intended to curb fraud, abuse and waste under Medicare Part D.
“NACDS recommends greater reliance on electronic prescribing for this purpose, based on pharmacists’ firsthand experiences on the front lines of health care delivery,” says Steve Anderson, president and chief executive officer of the association. “This is an important part of the comprehensive efforts to keep opioids out of the wrong hands.”
That message is also resonating at the state level. Mandatory electronic prescribing legislation has been enacted in six states this year, six others already have it in place, and similar measures are pending in several additional states.
Another issue of concern to community pharmacy operators that NACDS has helped bring to the forefront is the elimination of so-called gag clauses that prevent pharmacists from informing patients about ways to reduce out-of-pocket costs for prescription medications. The Senate recently passed a bill, the Patient Right to Know Prices Act, that would do just that in private insurance plans. The measure, sponsored by Sen. Susan Collins (R., Maine), complements the Know the Lowest Price Act, which was sponsored by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.) and addresses pharmacists’ dealings with patients enrolled in Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage plans. A similar bill introduced by Rep. Buddy Carter (R., Ga.) has been advanced by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
NACDS’ involvement in issues around drug pricing reflects its determination to do everything it can to foster pro-patient, pro-pharmacy policies. Doing away with gag clauses will enable pharmacists to help patients cope with rising prescription drug costs, which for many of them is one of the major impediments to adhering to medication regimens and achieving optimal outcomes.
The ongoing engagement by NACDS may be most evident in issues related to pharmacy and health care, which account for some 70% of sales at drug chains, but it extends to every aspect of the store. One of the association’s top priorities is countering the Trump administration’s trade policies, which have the potential to cause major disruptions in the supply chain and adversely affect consumers. After lending its voice to the chorus of opposition to the failed border adjustment tax a year ago, NACDS is once again on the front lines in trying to thwart escalation of the simmering trade war with China and other countries.
During his remarks at last month’s Total Store Expo in Denver, Anderson was clear about what’s at stake: “The emerging trade war could jeopardize much of what you are doing to transform your business and this great industry. This trade dispute has already involved tariffs on billions of dollars of goods, and has targeted hundreds of billions of dollars more.
“Diverse products, packaging and equipment already are being affected. And more items are being added to the tariff list. There are increased freight costs, too.
“This matters to the entire supply chain. Think about it. It affects the products on store shelves. It affects the process of getting those products to the shelves. And it even affects the shelves themselves, given rising steel costs.”
NACDS subsequently joined Americans for Free Trade, a coalition of businesses, trade groups and workers, to highlight the adverse economic effects of new tariffs imposed by the United States and the countermeasures of other nations. In addition, the association recently sponsored an ad campaign directed at policy makers in the nation’s capital that addressed the negative economic impact that could result from President Trump’s approach to solving trade disputes.
As its involvement in the fight over tariffs proves, NACDS is prepared to intervene whenever the interests of chain pharmacy and its customers are endangered. The industry is indeed fortunate to have such a forceful and effective advocate.