ARLINGTON, Va. — Regional pharmacy operators are playing an outsize role in “restoring hope for individuals in communities throughout the country,” National Association of Chain Drug Stores president and CEO Steve Anderson said today.
“This industry, and this profession, has said for decades that pharmacies can do even more as health care destinations in enhancing the lives of the American people if they’re just given the chance,” Anderson said during the opening session of the virtual 2021 NACDS Regional Chain Conference. “We are being given that opportunity with COVID. You cannot now watch a news broadcast or read an article where the word pharmacy doesn’t follow the words COVID vaccinations in the same breath. Not only is pharmacy improving and enhancing the lives of the American people, now today pharmacy is saving the lives of the American people.”
Pharmacy has an opportunity “to help heal our country,” said NACDS chairman Rick Keyes, president and CEO of Meijer. “The role that we’re going to play over the next year and in future years is going to be absolutely critical.”
Over 51 million flu shots were administered in pharmacies this past year, up 41% over the prior year, said Craig Norman, senior vice president of pharmacy at H-E-B and conference chair. “Once again we have shown what community pharmacy can do in a time of need. We are truly the most accessible health care providers out there.”
H-E-B has administered over 80,00 doses of COVID vaccine after getting an “unfortunately” small allocation from the state of Texas, noted Norman, adding that he was optimistic that would change “very soon.”
“The challenge to all us going forward is to take all of the learnings, situations and growth of 2020 to take this profession to the new heights that it needs to reach,” he added. The industry must continue to lobby strongly to get pharmacists’ scope of practice expanded, and “at a minimum” to make permanent everything they have been authorized to do during the pandemic, he said.
Anderson said pharmacy is at a crucial juncture, calling 2021 an inflection point. “It will be a critical time of significant change for health care in this country and now pharmacy is at the center of health care for all Americans. In 2021 and beyond we must all work together to command and expand the position we’ve achieved in 2020.”
“I have no doubt that 2021 will be pharmacy’s finest hour,” he said. “Noble deeds are being accomplished as we meet today. We need to translate those noble deeds into public policy so you remain economically viable to do even more.”