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    Pharmacy Reps Air Medicaid Access Issues on Capitol Hill

    ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- More than 70 pharmacy executives and representatives from pharmacy companies across the country are visiting with members of Congress today to advocate on behalf of community pharmacy.

    ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- More than 70 pharmacy executives and representatives from pharmacy companies across the country are visiting with members of Congress today to advocate on behalf of community pharmacy.

    The "fly-in" is a collaborative industry effort of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS), the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), and the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) to address Medicaid access issues, including average manufacturer price (AMP) and implementation of a new tamper-proof prescription paper requirement for Medicaid prescriptions.

    "Now is crunch time for the American pharmacy and the patients they serve," said Steven C. Anderson, NACDS president and c.e.o. "These policies are not a result of a pharmacist's work but rather a lack of understanding of their work. With the aid of our active members, we are hopeful that we can maintain momentum for H.R. 3140 and S.1951, mitigate the negative impacts on pharmacies, and continue providing the access to healthcare services and prescription drugs that patients expect and trust."

    The primary topic in the meetings with Congress is the final rule issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on Medicaid Prescription Drug Reimbursement. The rule establishes average manufacturer price, or AMP, as the basis for the calculation of Medicaid payments to pharmacies for "multiple source" (primarily generic) prescription medications.

    The policy is scheduled to take effect in January 2008, and according to the pharmacy representatives, will trigger $8 billion in cuts from Medicaid pharmacy reimbursement for generic drugs, requiring pharmacies to sell some drugs at a loss. If pharmacies have to absorb these deep cuts, they said, it could force them to alter the way they care for not only Medicaid patients, but all their patients.

    Through their visit to Congress, the associations hope to push awareness and encourage the House to pass the Saving Our Community Pharmacies Act of 2007 (H.R. 3140) and for the Senate to pass the Fair Medicaid Drug Payment Act of 2007 (S.1951). Both of these bills offer solutions that would prevent pharmacies from running the risk of altering patient care.

    In addition, the associations will voice their disapproval of the October 1, 2007 implementation date requiring that all Medicaid prescriptions be written on tamper-resistant prescription paper is quickly approaching. They maintain that this provision, which was slipped into the Iraq War supplemental appropriations bill, does not allow sufficient time for physicians to be notified of the new requirement and obtain these prescription pads, and can put the pharmacist in the position of potentially having to deny prescriptions to Medicaid patients.

    "Millions of Americans depend on supermarket pharmacies for medicines and dietary guidance that promote health and well-being," said FMI president and c.e.o. Tim Hammonds, whose association's members operate more than 19,000 pharmacies. "The government should not put community pharmacies in a position where inadequate reimbursements force them to choose between keeping their doors open or denying benefits to their Medicaid patients. We need immediate corrective action. Community pharmacies deliver needed medications to Medicaid beneficiaries for the government, and this critical program cannot survive without them."

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