By Michael Rule, Manager of Public Affairs and Grassroots Advocacy
Over the past few months, community pharmacy grassroots efforts have led to some modest, but important, legislative and regulatory victories in Washington for community pharmacists and the patients they serve. Continued grassroots engagement by pharmacists will drive future successes.
For example, while NCPA and independent community pharmacy share the concerns of policymakers in regards to prescription drug abuse and drug diversion of hydrocodone products, we had serious concerns that proposals to reschedule hydrocodone-containing products to Schedule II wasn’t the most practical approach and could have serious, negative potential consequences for patients. Due in part to over 1,000 pharmacist emails and phone calls to their legislators, the proposed reclassification was rejected for the final Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA) reauthorization bill. While our voices and those of patient advocates carried the day, NCPA and its members remain committed to working with policymakers to find a workable solution that addresses the problems of prescription drug abuse.
Additionally, the grassroots efforts of pharmacists have increased Congressional awareness of potential efforts by the Pentagon to further incentivize mail order usage in TRICARE. This will be addressed in the Department of Defense Authorization bill that Congress is expected to pass this fall. The proposals are less harmful to patient choice than the original Pentagon proposal, and the fact that Congress is addressing this has led the Pentagon to recently withdraw a proposal creating further mail order incentives. NCPA will continue to evaluate the TRICARE pharmacy benefit and will strenuously work to advocate for TRICARE beneficiaries’ choice and to maintain adequate access to independent community pharmacies. But voices of individual pharmacists will be needed to echo the message.
Congress will likely take up legislation after the November elections to address taxes and spending. It is possible that community pharmacies and their patients could be affected, positively or negatively, by the decisions Congress makes on what to include in this package.
While these modest successes are welcome, obviously major marketplace and legislative challenges remain. That is all the more reason for independent community pharmacy to remain engaged and/or get involved.
In order to be successful, it is imperative that independent community pharmacy owners, their employees and their patients, take a few moments to contact their Members of Congress and demand that issues such as MACs, audits, and access to diabetes testing supplies for Medicare beneficiaries be addressed before the end of the year. Click here to view a list of NCPA priority legislation and current co-sponsors. Please visit the NCPA Legislative Action Center to look up your elected officials and their contact information.