It seems like a week doesn't go by that I don't pick up a newspaper or a magazine and read a story about the wars we are waging in Afghanistan and Iraq, or the uprisings by citizens in many Middle Eastern countries. When I read the pharmacy press lately, it seems that I am reading about another ongoing war: the war against the profession of pharmacy.
While the profession has been conducting a continuing war against unfair reimbursements and other “take it or leave it” contractual mandates delivered by pharmacy benefit managers over the years, recently it seems that retail pharmacists are fighting their battles on several other fronts. As if trying to juggle patient care with keeping the lights on weren't enough, pharmacists are facing such other obstacles as the proliferation of pill mills, doctor shopping, online pharmacies, mail order, drug abusers, and sophisticated theft rings. And chain drugstores are not immune from these inroads.
For example, an article in USA Today describes a ring of thieves in Cincinnati that included 19 people who spent 2 years clearing shelves in Krogers, Walgreens, and Walmarts and then selling the stolen items for pennies on the dollar. And remember, this is a report for only one city. I believe this kind of coordinated theft is taking place at retailers across the country, both large and small. It is estimated that some $30 billion a year is being stolen by professional criminals.
But as bad as things seem, the profession of pharmacy may finally be turning the corner on all this negativism. The war against pill mills, drug abusers, and doctor shopping has had a boost lately, with many professional and legislative groups outside of pharmacy taking a proactive approach to those problems. And within the profession of pharmacy there has been a significant shift: getting retail pharmacists from behind the prescription counter and elevating their status as patient counselors.
A public education medication-adherence campaign was recently launched by the National Consumers League (NCL). The campaign, “Script Your Future,” raises awareness among patients about the consequences of not taking medications as directed. The NCL has been joined in this campaign by at least two major pharmacy organizations, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association, which represent both chain and independent pharmacies, respectively. Adding further support to the campaign's kickoff was U.S. Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin.
The multiyear campaign boasts a new Web site (http://scriptyourfuture.org) that provides patients with tools such as free text-message reminders, sample questions, medication lists and charts to keep track of medicines, and fact sheets on such common chronic conditions as diabetes, asthma, and high blood pressure. A companion site with adherence tools for health care professionals can be accessed at http://www.scriptyourfuture.org/hcp.
Pharmacists are in the perfect position to spearhead and promote this much-needed campaign. Now is the time to make a statement. I encourage all pharmacists to take action and participate in this vital program. Pharmacist consultation on patient compliance and adherence is the future of pharmacy, and it must be embraced today because the profession's future depends on it.
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