Senators Jon Tester and Jerry Moran, APhA and NCPA Brief Senate Community Pharmacy Caucus on the Role of Pharmacists in Rural America



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Alexandria, Va. - March 28, 2012

Today, Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Jerry Moran (R-KS), the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) and the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) held a briefing on the increasing role of the pharmacist in rural America for the Senate Community Pharmacy Caucus.

The Senators, APhA and NCPA arranged the briefing to discuss pharmacists' important role in the health care system, especially in rural communities, where access to needed care is sometimes limited. Over 1,800 independent community pharmacies operate as the only retail pharmacy within their rural community. Pharmacists in these communities are a vital link to the health care system, serving the 86% of rural Americans who reside within a 10-mile radius. Pharmacists in rural America play an important role in caring for these patients, teaching them safe medication management, administering their immunizations and working collaboratively with their physicians and other health care providers.

"Community pharmacies keep rural Montana strong and healthy by providing life-saving medicine, consultations and medical supplies," Sen. Tester said. "Today's event let us know what's working and what needs to improve so we can take smart, responsible measures to ensure better access to affordable health care."

Eric Beyer, BSPharm, owner Frenchtown Drug, an independent pharmacy in Frenchtown, MT, spoke to the Caucus on what it means to be a rural community pharmacist. His presentation included the many services his practice offers to the community, especially those built around a team-based approach to health care, such as medication therapy management, disease state management and patient care services. He also spoke about working with the community to offer compounding services, 340B drug pricing programs and oversight of the pharmacy services at rural hospitals, clinics and long-term care facilities. He talked about using advanced communications technology, such as telepharmacy, to increase patient access to quality health care at a distance. He also spoke to the positive outcomes of rural pharmacy for communities, such as improved health, economic growth and cost savings, and the challenges that rural pharmacies face, such as drug shortages, low reimbursement rates and mandatory mail order contracts.

"Community pharmacists are a vital part of our nation's health care delivery system, and in many Kansas communities the local pharmacist is a patient's most direct link to health care," Sen. Moran said. "Access to medications, health care supplies and the counsel pharmacists provide is very important to the health and well-being of every American. Today's briefing provided valuable information to Senators as we work to ensure all Americans have better access to affordable health care."

Brian Caswell, RPh, a community pharmacist with Wolkar Drug in Baxter Springs, Kansas, also addressed the gathering. He delivered three main points illustrating how community pharmacists improve health care in often-underserved rural areas. First, local pharmacists provide critical face-to-face consultation to help patients take their medication as prescribed and to navigate their health coverage. For example, during the early implementation of the Medicare Part D program in 2006, these pharmacists spent countless hours with patients and health plan representatives resolving questions regarding patients' prescriptions and insurance coverage. Second, rural pharmacists are a vital access point to influenza immunizations, among others. Third, when disaster strikes, rural Americans are vividly reminded about the importance of access to a local community pharmacy. In the aftermath of the tornado that devastated Joplin, Missouri in May 2011, Caswell traveled there to assist with recovery efforts. Within eight hours of the tornado's impact, area pharmacists established an emergency dispensary in a local university building. To expedite relief efforts, an executive order signed by Gov. Jay Nixon allowed pharmacists to provide a 30-day medicine supply without first communicating with the provider.

About the American Pharmacists Association
The American Pharmacists Association, founded in 1852 as the American Pharmaceutical Association, is a 501 (c)(6) organization, representing more than 62,000 practicing pharmacists, pharmaceutical scientists, student pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and others interested in advancing the profession. APhA, dedicated to helping all pharmacists improve medication use and advance patient care, is the first-established and largest association of pharmacists in the United States. To learn more, please visit www.pharmacist.com.

About the National Community Pharmacists Association
The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA®) represents the interests of America's community pharmacists, including the owners of more than 23,000 independent community pharmacies. Together they represent a $93 billion health care marketplace, dispense nearly 40% of all retail prescriptions, and employ more than 315,000 people, including 62,400 pharmacists. Independent community pharmacists are readily accessible medication experts who can help lower health care spending. They are committed to maximizing the appropriate use of lower-cost generic drugs and reducing the estimated $290 billion that is wasted annually by improper medication use. 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