US Pharm . 2007;32(6):4.

As I write this column, I have recently returned from the Annual Meeting of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS). I like that meeting from both a business and professional perspective. For one thing, I get to interact and spend quality time with some of the brightest people in the industry who sell to the chains on the supply side, and I get to have valuable face time with many top chain drug store executives. What I particularly like about NACDS is that it has been a solid citizen regarding issues facing the profession of pharmacy over the years. Despite the fact that pharmacy makes up a relatively small portion of a chain drug store's revenue, the management and appointed officials at NACDS have never lost sight of the importance that a pharmacy department's relatively small square footage, compared to the rest of the store, brings to the overall image of the chain drug store industry.

Over the 20-plus years I've been attending the annual meeting, I've heard incoming and outgoing chairpersons extol the virtues of pharmacy in their stores. This year's presentations were not much different, with the underlying theme being one of unity and "one voice" to speak for community pharmacy. Even though each national pharmacy organization caters primarily to the needs of their respective membership, all associations have come to the realization that serious pharmacy issues are shared responsibilities, whether they impact the chains, independents, or supermarkets. Unity is good for the profession, and I heartily endorse the concept.

This year, NACDS' outgoing chairman is pharmacist Anthony N. Civello, President and CEO of Kerr Drugs. To my mind, Kerr is one of the more progressive chains when it comes to pharmacy operations. I have personally met and spoken with staff pharmacists who work for Kerr. Their enthusiasm for the profession, which is contagious, comes from the encouragement they get from top management to engage the patient in consultative services. So when Tony Civello preaches about the value of pharmacists in his comments as outgoing chairman, I am not surprised. And incoming NACDS Chairman David W. Bernauer, Chairman of Walgreen Corporation, also a pharmacist, carried the message a step further by saying to the chain members,"Never have we had such opportunities to enhance the practice of pharmacy." I was pleasantly surprised to hear NACDS' new President and CEO Steve Anderson, who is not a pharmacist, speak to the value of community pharmacy as well. I think he pegged what the ultimate mission of NACDS should be when he said, "This association must lead in equipping community pharmacy to adapt and be relevant in changing times. We are not just selling products. Our services not only improve lives ... they save lives. We need to quit playing defense." I thought his statement about "not just selling products" really drives to the core of pharmacy's future.

Although it was nice to hear all the platitudes about pharmacists from these respected chain store executives, none of their rhetoric means a thing if it does not become reality. If we are going to change the way pharmacy is practiced, chain drug store executives must champion the cause. The pharmacists who work for them must have the latitude to be active and visible participants in that change. Their management must encourage them to participate in patient counseling and provide them with the proper training, tools, and, most importantly, the time they need, because as Tony Civello reminded those in attendance, "the stakes are huge." If we are going to exhibit the real value of pharmacists to patients, chain drug store executives must come to the realization that the time has come for action, not talk.

Harold E. Cohen, R.Ph.