NCPA President Calhoun: Imagination, Creativity Key to Community Pharmacists’ Future Success

By Kevin Schweers

NCPA President Donnie Calhoun, RPh, delivered an inspirational and forward-looking speech about the future of independent community pharmacy to his colleagues at NCPA’s 115th Annual Convention and Trade Exposition today.

Here are some highlights from the address by Calhoun, an independent community pharmacy owner from Anniston, Ala.:

[M]y story is your story. It’s the story of the American dream: To go to college, to own a home, to own your own business, to give your kids opportunities to be successful in life. … America is the best country in the world. It is the land of opportunity and freedom. In my family, I was the first to attend college and the first to own a business; the first pharmacist. I never thought I would have these opportunities and successes. 


Imagination. I think it’s been the key to our success as a country.  Great thinkers with imagination over the centuries have given us our world today.  And imagination will move us into the future with untold discoveries that will help us continue to succeed as a nation. … Small business, and especially independent community pharmacy, will need imagination to continue to thrive.


Our industry has been under enormous pressure over the last several years, particularly over reimbursement. We have continued to see our profit margin shrink and our overhead increase. Just like most small businesses across America, the recession took its toll on all of us.

Independent community pharmacy though was hit with a bigger whammy. In addition to those small business issues, we have faced enormous cuts from the [pharmacy benefit managers or PBMs] on our core business model—dispensing drugs.  Since the beginning of the first contract many years ago, the PBMs have cut our dispensing fees year after year.

We worked hard to save Medicare money by increasing the use of generics. When the program was launched, the average generic utilization rate was less than 60%. But you folks increased it over the years to close to 80% today.

You would think we would have been rewarded for saving all this money for the program. But no—the PBM industry has basically grabbed all the money out of our pockets and shoved it into theirs. They have slashed dispensing fees, reduced maximum allowable costs for generic drugs, and started restricted networks favoring the Wall Street pharmacy chains.

It’s time for our government to take a look at this industry and regulate it! How many PBM fines and penalties is it going to take for America to wake up and see that we don’t need them anymore! Their model is a thing of the past and we all know those record profits need to go back into the taxpayers’ pockets!


Our NCPA team went to bat for our profession in Congress and kept compounding a core part of pharmacy. Many of you heeded our call to contact your members of Congress. If we as pharmacists don’t protect our profession, then who will?


We are Main Street. We are family small business. We are entrepreneurs. We are community. We have solutions, America. Look at our history. Look at our results in helping our communities. We can’t solve our health care problems on Wall Street. We have to solve them one patient at a time!

Where would America be without us? It would be much much less healthy and much much poorer.

I believe our future is a bright one. We have so many smart energetic pharmacy students who are using their imagination and education to make sure independent community pharmacy is around for a long long time. Just look at the impressive 10-year history of the Student Business Plan Competition. To me, all 315 plans submitted since 2004 have been winners.

They are our successors. Let’s help them along and together we can bring independent community pharmacy to unimagined heights.

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