NCPA CEO Talks Up Community Pharmacy, Advocacy, and Medication Adherence in Convention Address

By Kevin Schweers

NCPA Executive Vice President and CEO B. Douglas Hoey, RPh, MBA looked back on his first year as CEO and gave independent community pharmacists a preview of some “coming attractions” in his address Monday morning to the 113th Annual Convention and Trade Exposition.

In a comprehensive, wide-ranging speech, Hoey touched on changes in the marketplace, in Washington and at NCPA of importance to community pharmacists. Here are some excerpts. Look for more of his speech in January’s edition of America’s Pharmacist.

It’s been a busy year for NCPA’s new Advocacy Center  communicating the value and concerns of community pharmacists.  NCPA’s tag line is that it is the voice of community pharmacy.   That’s true, but it is more accurate to say we are the megaphone for community pharmacy.   You are the voice.   It’s your relationships  with patients and  policymakers that  make possible NCPA’s  effectiveness in  representing you.  

 As pharmacists we are translators of  proper medication use  for our patients.  And, as your advocacy  organization, NCPA is  your translator to  policymakers.  We communicate to  them on the value and  concerns of pharmacy small business owners. 

 Yes, we are in  challenging times but independent  community pharmacy  continues to innovate  and be resilient.   Does that mean we are  guaranteed success?   Absolutely not.   But does it mean that  we will stand up and  make sure those with  the biggest influence  on our business  understand clearly the  value we provide to the  people?  You bet.   

 Communicating the  value of what  community  pharmacists provide to  patients and the health  care system has never  been more important.   Our patients know  what we do for them.   They tell people like  Consumer Reports, J.D. Power, and the  Gallup Poll.  

 We have  worked with community  pharmacies to create  Simplify My Meds,  a turnkey program you  can use to develop an  adherence program in  your pharmacy.  Janet Kusler is a  pharmacist from  Snohomish,  Washington 25 miles  north of Seattle.  She comes to the  NCPA meeting each  year with the goal of  coming away with at  least one idea that she  can take back to make  her more successful.   Two years ago she attended our session on adherence programs.   She has gone on to start and enroll 100 patients in her adherence program!   In the short time the  program has been in  place, her pharmacy  has become more  efficient allowing her to  better allocate her time  to spend on her  business rather than,  in her words, running  around like a chicken  with its head cut off. Other pharmacists implementing adherence programs have seen both revenue and prescriptions increase by 10%.   

Surescripts is committed to improving the experience that you have when you use its network.  I am pleased to  announce that  Surescripts is again  demonstrating this  commitment by  initiating a new hotline  dedicated to  independent  community pharmacies  to assist them in their  use of eprescribing.  The number is 877-877-3962.   Call it when you need e-prescribing help. 

 This spring we announced the formation of the NCPA Advocacy Center, led by John Coster, to increase the synergy between all of the advocacy functions in the organization.   A few weeks later legislation was introduced in the House and Senate that would address the one-sided nature of PBM relationships with community pharmacies.  It addresses the burdensome, unnecessary audits, the conflicts of interest, and, requires that PBMs reveal the source of their MACs.  

 We all woke up to the [Express Scripts-Medco merger] news the morning of July 21.    Wall Street immediately welcomed the deal and analysts said it would likely be approved by the Federal Trade Commission.   That same morning NCPA weighed in with a statement opposing the merger.   Our argument is that if the merger is allowed it would create a mega-PBM that will dominate the market, limit choice for employers, and ultimately harm consumers.  Ten weeks later, there is still much speculation about whether the FTC will ultimately approve the deal.   NCPA has urged pharmacies to speak out.   You have responded with thousands of messages to Congress.  Many Members of Congress have heard you and publicly asked the FTC to closely examine or block the transaction.   While there is no guarantee of success we are pulling out all stops to prevent this unholy alliance. 

 A couple of years ago we launched Dispose My Meds —which so far has helped take back 50,000 pounds of unused medications.  We also found that patients were returning a disproportionate amount of unused medications from mail order pharmacies.  So, we asked the membership to take pictures of what they were seeing and send them to us.   Here’s what some of you sent us. As a pharmacist, the waste makes me sick.   Just think about how many patients who can’t afford their medications who could have benefitted.  As a taxpayer, I am outraged.  Send it to your patients. Post it on your Facebook page.  Send it to your members of Congress.  Tell everyone who will listen that Mandatory Mail Order creates waste which increase costs.

 Unfortunately, the abusive business practices of PBMs have increased.  Their contracts have grown more one-sided.  We’re not looking for any special favors but we are looking to be treated fairly.  We are aware of a number of legal cases against PBMs that have originated in states.  In most of those cases, NCPA has worked with those local legal teams to provide information to help them with their case. However, we believe there is a need for one central place to enable communication between plaintiffs.   To enhance the coordination of pharmacy legal action, NCPA is forming a Pharmacy Legal Resource Center.  This new asset will be  a central database of  sorts for legal  representatives of  community pharmacy  groups to go where  they can find legal  arguments that have  been tried  before……some successful and some not.

 Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks said, “Treat your customers like they own you.   Because they do.”   This year NCPA  unveiled a program  called “Full Disclosure”  that looks into the  minds of customers  who share what they  want from their  pharmacy, how you  can better satisfy  current customers and  how to attract new  ones. For our second step, I am pleased to announce that Gabe Trahan will be joining the NCPA team November first. Gabe will be helping pharmacies across the country with their out front operations, store design, and marketing.  Gabe has been in pharmacies most of his career and is one of NCPA’s most popular speakers.   Gabe is also a translator—he knows the voice of the consumer and translates that into actionable steps to drive business growth for pharmacy owners. 

 These are challenging economic times but we will persevere just as we have before.  We will continue to expand how we demonstrate value and we will evolve as the circumstances around us change.  All the while, NCPA is here with you as the megaphone for your voice. 

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