NCPA 42nd Annual Legislative Conference Concludes With Renewed Focus to Ensure Patients Have Access to Community Pharmacy Services

Alexandria, Va. - May 12, 2010

 

Today nearly 500 pharmacist attendees from across America completed the successful three-day National Community Pharmacists Association's (NCPA) 42nd Annual Conference on Legislation and Government Affairs. Community pharmacists thanked lawmakers for including pro-patient, pro-pharmacy provisions in the recently enacted health care reform law, discussed implementation of that law, and made the case for new, bipartisan legislation. 

Participants lobbied for two recently introduced bills addressing many of the concerns about the business practices of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs): H.R. 5234, the PBM Audit Reform and Transparency Act of 2010, and the competitive bidding requirements for Medicare Part B Durable Medical Equipment, Prosthetics, Orthotics and Supplies (DMEPOS), H.R. 5235, the Medicare Access to Diabetes Supplies Act

"Each year, the federal government's influence over independent community pharmacies grows as does our members' commitment to educating decision-makers in our nation's capital about their concerns, while providing constructive solutions," said Bruce T. Roberts, RPh, NCPA executive vice president and CEO. "The attendees at this year's legislative conference came here to help ensure that congressional and federal officials are creating a level playing field that allows independent community pharmacies to continue working to improve health outcomes and reduce costs." 

Conference attendees heard from top officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, including the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and Food and Drug Administration; U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC); and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Jon Tester (D-MT) and U.S. Representatives Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO), Wally Herger (R-CA) and Sander Levin (D-MI) also addressed the conference. 

Today pharmacists were joined at a rally for community pharmacy in front of the U.S. Capitol by Representatives Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Geoff Davis (R-KY), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Steve Driehaus (D-OH), Walter Jones (R-NC), David Loebsack (D-IA), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Anthony Weiner (D-NY). 

During the conference approximately 200 congressional visits were made to press Senators and Representatives for co-sponsorship and passage of the two aforementioned bills, among other issues. These efforts were amplified today with the assistance of NCPA members who were not in attendance, but who contacted their federal elected officials' offices for "Independent Community Pharmacy Congressional Action Day." The message was further driven home through anadvertisement in Capitol Hill publications

"This week independent community pharmacy voices were heard throughout Washington, either by meeting with their member of Congress or calling into their offices," said Joseph H. Harmison, PD, NCPA president and pharmacy owner in Arlington, TX. "Whether it is passing legislation to curtail PBMs' ability to operate in secret or audit pharmacies in a predatory fashion, or protecting patients' access to essential medical supplies like diabetes testing strips, we are sticking up for our pharmacies and our patients." 

A final but important aspect of the attendees focus was a follow-up to what transpired at last year's legislative conference. It was there that over 80 independent community pharmacists met with FTC Chair Jon Leibowitz to provide first-hand accounts of CVS Caremark's seemingly anti-competitive and anti-consumer practices and requested an investigation. The FTC subsequently opened up a non-public investigation and 24 states and two municipalities are also currently scrutinizing these practices. This week attendees heard from an FTC official (who did not comment on any specifics of the ongoing investigation). And separately, a few pharmacy professionals and NCPA staff presented detailed information to the FTC about how PBMs mask their true costs and use overly aggressive audit practices to financially punish independent pharmacies. 

Harmison concluded, "Governmental intervention into the actions of CVS Caremark is central to the need to rein in the PBM industry, because the marriage of this giant PBM and giant retail chain has opened up new potential avenues for abuses for an entity with a staggering market share. NCPA will continue to press its case in hopes that corrective action will be taken." 

The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA®) represents America's community pharmacists, including the owners of more than 22,700 independent community pharmacies, pharmacy franchises, and chains. Together they represent an $88 billion health-care marketplace, employ over 65,000 pharmacists, and dispense over 40% of all retail prescriptions. To learn more go to www.ncpanet.org or read NCPA's blog, The Dose, at http://ncpanet.wordpress.com.

Ask Your Family Pharmacist TM