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.

Pharmacies' Super Power | NCPA Executive Update | May 31, 2019

by NCPA | May 31, 2019

Dear Colleague,

Doug Hoey

Washington D.C. is a bit like Hollywood in that you never know when you might be running into a well-known celebrity. The type of celebrity differs in that in Washington, instead of bumping into Bradley Cooper or Scarlett Johansson, you may run into Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi, or even President Trump.

NCPA Board Chair Michele Belcher had that experience and turned it into a positive for community pharmacy.

Michele is a pharmacy owner from Grants Pass, Ore., and was flying home from NCPA's April Pharmacy Fly-In when she ran into one of her U.S. senators, Ron Wyden, who was on the same plane. Any senator is an important contact, but Wyden is the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, not only one of the most important congressional committees but also the same committee that has been hosting a series of drug pricing hearings. During the NCPA Fly-In, the committee hauled in PBM executives to ask them questions about their business practices.

The senator and Michele exchanged hellos and then began to chat about pharmacy issues affecting her business back home. Michele invited Wyden to come to her pharmacy for a visit. He accepted and earlier this week traveled to Grant's Pass for a first-hand look. Karry LaViolette, NCPA's senior vice president, government affairs and director of the Advocacy Center, made the trip to Oregon over the Memorial Day weekend because of the importance of the meeting.

There are a few key things that are extremely important to note in the above scenario. First, Michele had an existing relationship with Wyden through meetings she has had with his staff, and had established credibility with him. Second, she was bold enough to introduce herself to one of the most important people in our country and invite him to her pharmacy. Third, the senator was already familiar with the problems PBMs are creating for pharmacies and consumers, so he was an eager listener. And, fourth, Michele was coming back from the NCPA Fly-In a testimony to actively advocating for her business. Yes, the meeting was serendipitous but she put herself in the right place at the right time.

The local paper covered Wyden's visit with a front page story and had several choice quotes. Here's a sampling:

  • "Nobody else knows what these folks do about their patients," Wyden said. "The small-town pharmacies are the ones who talk to Mr. Jones or Mrs. Smith about how they're doing with their prescriptions."

  • "We're trying to stay viable as a small business and independent pharmacy," said Belcher. "The services we provide aren't provided by the big boxes."
    That includes delivering drugs to 25 to 30 patients a day.

  • "Michele is absolutely right about reducing the role of middlemen, the PBMs, which are taking so much out of the health care dollar," Wyden said.

Michele wasn't the only NCPA member hosting a pharmacy visit. Two days ago, NCPA President Bill Osborn was on hand at NCPA member Kathy Campbell's pharmacy in Owasso, Okla., during a visit by U.S. Rep. Kevin Hern. NCPA members Jim Spoon, Chris Schiller, Travis Wolff and TJ Marti also attended the meeting. Kathy ran into Hern when he was running for office and talked with him about her business. Hern was later elected to office and that one conversation turned into a pharmacy visit and a well-educated member of Congress on pharmacy issues.

Also on Wednesday, NCPA Past President Steve Giroux hosted a pharmacy visit with Rep. Chris Collins from New York. Steve said the visit came together like this: "I got the call Tuesday afternoon for Wednesday between 11 and 12. Michael Rule (NCPA associate grassroots director) equipped me which a packet. I had my pharmacist manager and one of my residents – but no time to assemble more colleagues. Obviously talked about non-transparent PBMs, and DIR fees, which the congressman described in vivid detail for the non- pharmacists at the meeting."

Others who welcomed members of Congress around the Memorial Day recess were: NCPA member John Ed White from Mendenhall, Miss., who hosted Rep. Michael Guest; Rep. Trey Hollingsworth, who met with NCPA member Scott Butt in Brownstown, Ind.; and NCPA member Eric Larson, St. Cloud, Fla., who had a visit from Rep. Darren Soto. Also, NCPA member Jitesh Zala, owner of Lynwood Community Pharmacy in Lynwood, Calif., participated in a press event Thursday with Rep. Nanette Baragan, a member of the E&C Health Subcommittee, about insulin prices.

Relationships. That is the super power of NCPA members. Hats off to these NCPA members for hosting and educating members of Congress.


Doug Hoey