By John Coster, RPh., Ph.D.
As lawmakers prepare to return to Washington after August recess, many utilized the summer to meet with pharmacists and constituents at their local pharmacy.
NCPA members hosted more than twenty pharmacy visits from June to September 2010. Stretching from California to New Jersey, pharmacists are showing members of the U.S. Congress what makes community pharmacies unique and important to patients. Pharmacy visits are a valuable tool to build relationships and educate elected officials about the value pharmacists provide to the health care system and the challenges encountered every day.
In July, Representative Larry Kissell (D-N.C.) toured Barbee Pharmacy in Raeford, NC with owner, Sprite Barbee. Last Sept., Rep. Kissell acted on the complaints of North Carolina pharmacists and patients and requested the Federal Trade Commission investigate the CVS Caremark merger.
Representative Gene Taylor (D-Miss.) toured Picayune Drug Company with owner Andrew Failla. The local newspaper, The Picayune Item, covered the visit the next day. Mr. Failla took the opportunity to discuss some of the problems his small business faces including low reimbursement rates for home infusion drugs. He is only able to receive reimbursement for the drug itself from the insurance company. Unfortunately, preparing home infusion drugs requires a lot of work and materials, without reimbursement.
Representative Taylor sees problems with the way drugs are prescribed to patients on Medicare Part D. We agree with his support for the increased use of generic drugs when the name brand alternative is not required by the doctor.
William Fobi of Paramount, CA hosted Representative Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) at Fobi Comprehensive Pharmacy to highlight problems with CVS Carmark as well as Walgreens Health Initiative audits. “I have wanted to go to Congress to vent my frustration with how independent pharmacies are punished by the system,” Dr. Fobi said. “But the Congresswoman coming to our pharmacy to visit with us was better than I could have expected. She was very impressed with the many community outreach programs we have in place. She promised to work with us to resolve the audit problems as well as partnering with us to continuously provide quality care to the City of Paramount.”
Representative Geoff Davis (R-Ky.) (seated on right) recently visited Grant County Drugs in Dry Ridge, KY. Rep. Davis heard from several Grant County Drug patients and owner Jason Wallace about limits to patient access in local pharmacies and abusive auditing practices.
Congressman Davis addressed concerns about new Medicare bidding requirements on durable medical equipment (DME). Representative Davis also expressed concern that out of state companies may potentially receive the right to supply many types of DME in the area, making it difficult for local businesses to provide these services to patients. Several patients highlighted problems with mandatory mail order programs.
Gary Angelo, owner of Toms River, NJ.’s Silverton Pharmacy, accompanied Representative John Adler (D-N.J.) (pictured on right) during a recent pharmacy tour. Mr. Angelo showed Rep. Adler examples of egregious PBM audits based on clerical or technical problems and highlighted other PBM tricks of the trade. Rep. Adler also addressed a recently passed bill from the U.S. House of Representatives concerning the Red Flags Rule. Small pharmacists were unintentionally excluded from the exempted group of industries, but Rep. Adler offered support for an amendment to a similar Senate bill currently under consideration.
Also touring community pharmacies this summer were Representatives Harry Mitchell (D-Ariz.), Howard Coble (R-N.C.), Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.), Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), Aaron Schock (R-Ill), John Shimkus (R-Ill.), Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), Nick Rahall (D-W. Va.), Dan Boren (D-Ore.), John Duncan (R-Tenn.), Charles Djou (R- Hawaii), Ed Pastor (D-Ariz.) and a staff member from Representative Roy Blunt’s (R-Mo.) office. We appreciate Members of Congress taking the time to visit NCPA members and learn more about independent pharmacies.
If you are interested in scheduling a pharmacy visit please contact NCPA’s Bob Aldrich at (703) 683-8200.