NCPA Executive Update

NCPA Executive Update delivers insights on legislative, regulatory, policy, and industry developments from NCPA CEO B. Douglas Hoey, Pharmacist, MBA, to NCPA members and pharmacy leaders every other Friday.

Pharmacist Do-gooders | NCPA Executive Update | March 4, 2016

by NCPA | Mar 04, 2016

Dear Colleague,

Doug Hoey

My 9-year old daughter has brought me the first signs of spring—Girl Scout cookies and Little League softball. Many independent pharmacies are being reminded too as they are asked to sponsor youth sports and other programs. Doing good for others is part of community pharmacists' daily practice (and part of their DNA!), and most days that's enough. "Virtue is its own reward," as the saying goes. But it's nice to have an affirmation every once in a while that by doing good you are making a difference.

The NCPA Foundation got such an affirmation this week that I'd like to share. Since 2009, NCPA pharmacies have registered more than 2,800 new potential bone marrow donors, DKMS, our partner in the annual drives, just told us. Seven of these individuals have gone on to donate their marrow or stem cells to patients. That means seven people fighting leukemia, sickle cell anemia, or other blood cancer diseases could have a life-saving transplant.

That's a dramatic example, but independents give back to their communities every day in so many different ways. Some 63% of community pharmacies financially support five or more community-based organizations, for example. The typical contribution is $3,000 per pharmacy. That amounts to over $65 million.

Doing the math, that would make the aggregated contribution of all independent pharmacies some of the most generous in the business world! That's in addition to the volunteer work of community pharmacy owners and their staff. All this despite the oppressive business practices by the PBMs sometimes making your business feel like it's a non-profit organization!

Independent pharmacists' direct involvement with their patients and their communities is one more reason why independent community pharmacies are relevant to members of Congress. That helps NCPA's government affairs team with its outreach to Congress. It also makes a pharmacy visit even more attractive to members of Congress—especially during this election year.

NCPA started asking NCPA members to open their doors to members of Congress almost 10 years ago. Since then, hundreds Representatives and Senators have seen and heard for themselves about the rewards of helping patients and the frustrations of dealing with PBMs. (You can extend a personal invitation your lawmakers to visit your pharmacy when you attend the 2016 Congressional Pharmacy Summit May 24-25 in Arlington, Va. Register now on the NCPA website or by calling 800-544-7447.)

The more lawmakers understand about PBM practices, the more incredulous they become and the more willing they are to try to effect change in federal programs through legislation and regulation to try to right this unbalanced business relationship.

Here are a few examples of pharmacy visits or meeting with owners so far this year:

  • Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, met with Dean Jolley and Darryl Wagner of Jolley's Compounding Pharmacy in Salt Lake City.

  • Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), took time to visit Madden's Pharmacy in Elberton. (Watch Collins criticize PBMs and push for his MAC transparency bill, H.R. 244, before the House Rules Committee March 1.)

  • Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) visited Roller Pharmacy in Erwin.

  • Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.) visited Palm Beach Compounding Center in Palm Beach. While there, pharmacist in charge Rick Upson showed Murphy the videos of "Phil My Pockets," a humorous take on how PBM middlemen interfere with the patient/pharmacist relationship.

Independent pharmacists' direct involvement with their patients and their communities also will be important as health care provider payment reform continues the move to value-based care, requiring coordinated care among health care providers.

However, one key ingredient is missing: Independents must aggregate in a way different than today. They must be able to contract with a payer or a hospital system as a group to provide products and services. They especially must be able to do this in geographic regions where that hospital or health plan has a lot of patients. In this future, model payers can skip the middleman, i.e., PBMs.

As the noted philosopher (and baseball Hall of Famer) Yogi Berra, noted, "It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future." The contributions—financial, professional, and emotional—of independently owned pharmacies contribute mightily to the soul of their community—both today and as the business of pharmacy changes in the future. You can toast a Thin Mint and Trefoil to that!


Doug Hoey