Current Diabetes Issues And A Website Devoted To Addressing Your Concerns

June 01, 2009

(As appeared in Pharmacy Times by Bruce T. Roberts, RPh, NCPA Executive Vice President and CEO)

Last year's NCPA Digest-sponsored by Cardinal Health, found 69 percent of community pharmacies sell durable medical equipment such as diabetes testing strips. This allows patients with diabetes to get their medications, testing supplies and medication consultation at the same location. Unfortunately, this health care dynamic is undermined by the federal government's pushing of intrusive, redundant, onerous and expensive policies. Their competitive bidding, accreditation and surety bond requirements are causing many community pharmacies to reconsider participation in the selling of durable medical equipment (DME), because their cost benefit analysis deems it an expendable niche service. The loss of business to pharmacies is unacceptable, but the loss for patients is much more profound.

The federal government must change or at least delay these rules from being implemented. Otherwise, an all-too-common occurrence could be repeated throughout America. Diabetes patients in underserved areas will get their prescriptions for metformin or glyburide at their local pharmacy, but their testing supplies will need to be purchased at a pharmacy many miles away that still sells the merchandise. Or they will have to use the mail order option. Either scenario prevents a diabetes patient's trusted pharmacist from providing the comprehensive patient care that benefits patients the most.

NCPA is committed to making sure that doesn't happen. In April we launched the Diabetes Supply Center in partnership with Roche Diagnostic through Pharmacist e-LinkTM The site is designed to provide pharmacists with the information needed to best serve patients with diabetes, while at the same time making diabetes supplies a viable part of their business. The site helps pharmacists navigate the regulatory process for accreditation, surety bonds and competitive bidding; provides business tools, informative articles, breaking news, expert opinion forums; and includes a regular newsletter.

Progress is being made in getting Congress to intervene legislatively on the accreditation and surety bond issues. In the case of accreditation, that process was launched in January when Representatives Marion Berry (D-AR) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) introduced H.R. 616. The bill allows community pharmacists to join 17 other medical professionals who are currently exempted from having to undergo the accreditation process by September 2009 in order to continue selling DME. This is unnecessary. Community pharmacists already receive training and are subject to regulation and oversight as state-licensed medical professionals and businesses. Any violations that do occur already carry the threat of civil and criminal sanctions. This redundant exercise is time-consuming and costly.

Community pharmacies are also required to post $50,000 surety bonds by October 2009 if they want to continue selling DME. In this instance, 14 other medical professionals are exempted, which is why Representatives Zach Space (D-OH) and Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) got the legislative wheels turning by introducing H.R. 1970 in March. Under their bill, pharmacists would also be exempted and not have to purchase a bond designed to prevent fraud when the record doesn't indicate pharmacists engage in that activity. The good news is that bond prices have plummeted from the $1,500 suggested by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). NCPA members can purchase bonds for as low as $250 dollars. The links for the sites where you can take advantage of this offer are,

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