PHARMACIES 'UNDER SIEGE': NACDS

PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Pharmacies are "under siege," said the incoming chairman of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, Alexandria, Va., during the trade association's annual meeting here late last month."We are taken for granted," said Mary Sammons, president and chief operating officer, Rite Aid, Camp Hill, Pa., referring to the retail pharmacy industry. "We deserve fair compensation for

PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Pharmacies are "under siege," said the incoming chairman of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, Alexandria, Va., during the trade association's annual meeting here late last month.

"We are taken for granted," said Mary Sammons, president and chief operating officer, Rite Aid, Camp Hill, Pa., referring to the retail pharmacy industry. "We deserve fair compensation for the services we provide. And we should not be shy about reminding government officials that we deserve to make a fair and reasonable profit."

Legislative issues were top-of-mind at the 2003 meeting, with a clear emphasis on Medicare reform.

Also during the opening business program, Craig Fuller, president and chief executive officer, NACDS, outlined principles to meet the needs of consumers, legislators and retailers in providing a meaningful senior drug benefit:

Establish a level playing field that will allow retail pharmacy to compete and give consumers the freedom to choose where they purchase prescriptions;

Abide by a rule of "transparency" ensuring that government agencies will direct money toward patients needing the greatest help; and

Pharmacies should be able to receive "risk protection" that provides fair compensation for services provided.

Fuller wished for greater cooperation between industry and government on a workable solution to the problem. "It is my fondest hope for this industry that we can go forward this year and not oppose legislation.," Fuller said.

Mark Griffin, outgoing NACDS chairman and president and CEO, Lewis Drugs, Sioux Falls, S.D., also touched on concerns over the federal health care system. "It's simply outrageous that the largest federal health program will pay to diagnose a senior's conditions, but won't pay for the medication needed to treat them, or the pharmacy services necessary to help ensure that medication is taken safely, properly and effectively," he said.

Last year, half of the patients on Medicare spent at least $1,000 out-of-pocket on prescription drugs, and one in 10 spent at least $4,000, said Griffin. Those numbers "go far to explain why so many seniors don't get the health care they deserve. The hard truth is, many just can't afford it," he said.