BOSTON -- Gene Graves, incoming president of the National Association of Retail Druggists, and Charles West, NARD's executive vice president, compared the struggle of independent pharmacists to that of the American colonists more than two hundred years ago.
"In 1773, American colonists knew that change must occur to release them from the tyranny of a third party -- King George III," said West. "A revolution was begun here in Boston.
"In 1994, American independent pharmacists know that change must occur to release them from the tyranny of third parties," said West. "A revolution must begin again here in Boston in 1994."
Graves, president and chief executive officer of I Care of Arkansas, Little Rock, which provides intravenous pharmaceuticals and nutrition services, described the current turbulent times as the "American health care revolution." Just as the American colonists were ultimately successful in freeing themselves because of popular support, Graves predicted that independent pharmacists will not only survive but prosper in the coming years because of the support "of the people."
"We are the most accessible health care professionals to the people," said Graves. "We are the most trusted professionals by the people. We can significantly reduce the cost of health care for the people. When given a choice, the people choose to patronize our pharmacies for their pharmacy services. Collectively, we are politically powerful because of our position with the people."
Graves challenged independent pharmacists to improve patient medication compliance, a $100 billion problem, through drug interventions, patient counseling, disease management, clinical monitoring and wellness education. To do so, Graves said community pharmacists will have to "take responsibility for medication compliance, and evaluate and adjust the work flow of their pharmacies."
Graves urged continued support of NARD's legislative efforts to eliminate discriminatory drug pricing, seek fair compensation for professional services, and permit patients to choose their own pharmacies.
West charged that retail pharmacy's opponents have "resorted to creative tactics in attempting to cloud the issue of multitier pricing." One tactic, he said, was to use the term "unitary pricing," instead of "equal access to discounts," to refer to the preferential prices available to mail-order and HMO pharmacies but not to retail pharmacies.
West then introduced what he said were three "revolutionary ideas."
First, West suggested that community pharmacy could create a "community pharmacy formulary" with the help of retail buying groups, to be involved in market-share movement. "If a mail-order firm can get physicians to switch products from hundreds of miles away, think how effective you can be in your own neighborhood," he said.
Idea No. 2, said West, would be to offer employers a mail-order pharmacy option, called Hometown Pharmacy, that would function similar to FTD delivery of flowers. The prescription would go to Hometown Pharmacy headquarters, where a pharmacist would read it, and then beam it electronically to the independent community pharmacist nearest the patient, determined by zip code. The pharmacist could then mail the prescription to the patient or deliver it. The third revolutionary idea is actually here, said West. "It is pharmaceutical care, or, as we prefer to call it at NARD, pharmacist care. It is with pharmacist care and therapeutic interventions that we take control of our patients' drug therapy. It is with pharmacist care that we deliver the positive patient outcomes now being demanded by the buyers of pharmacy services," said West.
During the American Revolution, said Graves, a group of colonists, with no central government, no army and no money took on the strongest economic and military power in the world and won "because they were committed and because they were fighting for the survival and freedom of the people.
"Independent pharmacy, too, faces very strong opposition," said Graves. "But we, like our forefathers, stand on the side of the people."