Sitting on the Sidelines—No Longer an Option

May 01, 2009

(As appeared in Pharmacy Times by Bruce T. Roberts, RPh, NCPA Executive Vice President and CEO)

As a community pharmacy owner I understand the challenges you face. My mission is to help community pharmacies be successful. NCPA has devoted many resources to ensuring community pharmacies have the tools to provide greater patient care. However, our biggest challenges come from what I call our uninvited business partner—the federal government—who supply 40% of our prescription reimbursements and often enact policies that hurt community pharmacies. So how do we keep improving out businesses, while convincing the federal government to treat us fairly?

Simply put: there is strength in numbers. Last July NCPA launched its first-ever member drive, and while the response has been overwhelming, we've only just begun. The resources we need for ground-breaking programs; effectively lobbying the federal government; and winning legal battles must be further bolstered by a growing membership roll. Not only must all community pharmacy owners join the cause, but pharmacy managers, staff pharmacists, and technicians must also join. We all have mutual interests, so uniting under the NCPA banner is way of protecting and advancing community pharmacy.

What should spring non-members into action is the Obama Administration and 111th Congress promise to tackle health care reform this year. There is no time like the present to join the association that speaks up for you in Washington, D.C. Become a member now and you'll help us realize our envisioned future. Our concerns and solutions need to part of the legislative actions that emerge. Without a united front, the federal government could well represent 50% or more of our prescription reimbursements. And what would threaten our financial viability more than a greedy uninvited business partner? Never mind living at the mercy of the unfriendly toward small business decision-making of CMS, DEA and FDA bureaucrats.

In just the last year NCPA has had significant legislative victories like delaying AMP Medicaid cuts until late 2009 and forcing PBMs to promptly reimburse community pharmacies rather than holding the money for their own interest-accruing gains. In the courtroom we made the AMP delay possible by getting an injunction that prevented the erroneous CMS AMP definition from being implemented in early 2008. Now NCPA is pressing the FTC to erect badly-needed firewalls in the CVS Caremark merger that can prevent patient privacy violations and other problems. However, future victories depend on a greater NCPA membership, because a new challenge seems to appear with each passing day.

While keeping the government wolves at bay is important, there needs to be a robust commitment to better community pharmacies' business practices. For example, in 2006, NCPA launched Mirixa to bring MTM to Medicare Part D patients with chronic conditions and multiple medications, giving patients a more personalized health care experience—and rewarding pharmacists. Seven years ago, along with NACDS, we established SureScripts, therefore providing a neutral platform to facilitate electronic prescribing. However, these and other projects need the resources that come with increased membership.

Our membership-drive focuses on messages, phone banks, faxes, e-mails, direct mail, advertisements, and strong partnerships with the pharmacy community. For example, CARE Pharmacies, the Georgia Academy of Independent Pharmacies, and the Independent Pharmacy Buying Group each have signed up 100% of their clients for NCPA membership.

Join NCPA today by calling 1-800-544-7447 and asking for the membership department. If you want to register online you can go directly to and click on Join NCPA. While the membership-drive enters its second year the truth is there will be no rest until we empty the sidelines and everyone is actively doing their part. There is strength in numbers and your participation is mandatory.

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