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The stars are aligned for elevating pharmacy

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Retail pharmacy advocates would do well to heed the Latin aphorism carpe diem, or seize the day. The industry commands widespread public support following its exemplary performance during the pandemic, a period when millions of Americans turned to pharmacies for COVID-19 tests and immunizations and, in the process, had their eyes opened to the extent of the contributions that the profession is making to public health. The change in perception creates ideal conditions for pharmacy to achieve some long-sought goals.

A recent report from CVS Health, subtitled “A new day in retail pharmacy,” tracks the dynamics currently at play. The research, based on a poll conducted for the company by Morning Consult and involving 2,210 individuals, confirms previous studies that showed the high standing that members of the pharmacy profession enjoy, with 74% of respondents expressing trust in pharmacists and their colleagues behind the prescription counter.

More telling is the growing desire to access an expanded range of services at the local pharmacy. Sixty-one percent of consumers indicate that it is often difficult to obtain health care when and where it is needed. An equal number want community pharmacies to be empowered to help close those gaps, and 69% say they should be covered by insurance plans, the same way as other health care providers.

Supporters of retail pharmacy are stepping up their efforts. The Future of Pharmacy Care Coalition — a group of leading health care companies and associations, including APhA, NACDS and NCPA — called late last month for Congress to enact pending legislation that would guarantee that Medicare beneficiaries have continued access to pharmacist-provided services, including testing and immunizations for COVID and influenza, as well as coverage of testing for respiratory syncytial virus and strep throat. In addition, the bill would enable pharmacists to initiate drug regimens used to treat those conditions.

It is imperative for the profession to lock in the powers that it was granted in recent years, and utilize that status as a foundation for securing pharmacists’ right to practice at the top of their license, increase levels of collaboration with physicians and other providers, and receive fair reimbursement for their work. With the pandemic winding down and the just elected Congress set to convene in January, the odds on passage of measures favorable to retail pharmacy could change quickly. Now is the time to act.


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