Community pharmacies have critical role in providing quality healthcare

All across the country, the health of communities such as ours in Georgia and Vermont depend on the high-quality care provided every day by independent pharmacies.  

For this reason, we are very proud to reestablish the bipartisan Congressional Community Pharmacy Caucus in the 113th Congress on behalf of the millions of patients whose lives the nation’s independent community pharmacists touch every day.

Independent community pharmacists play a critical role in our healthcare system. They are the trusted front-line providers, who are consulted for their expertise in the management of medication therapy and drug interactions. These most accessible healthcare providers offer immunizations, blood pressure monitoring and diabetes training — usually without an appointment. They also provide long-term care services to assisted living, hospice and skilled nursing facilities.

Community pharmacies deliver these essential services and personal care for patients in rural towns and villages in Georgia, Vermont and across the country. These small businesses are a critical part of what keeps rural America strong and healthy. Without convenient access to life-saving medicine, medical supplies and in-person counseling, the viability of rural life for many Americans would be threatened.

Independent community pharmacies are also a reassuring healthcare presence in under-served, inner-city and ethnic neighborhoods where they provide specialized services difficult to find nearby.

Nationwide, these 23,100 pharmacies represent an $88.5 billion marketplace, dispense nearly 40 percent of all retail prescriptions and employ more than 300,000 full-time workers, including some 62,000 pharmacists. 

As community pillars, they contribute greatly to their local economy. The average independent community pharmacy generates $3.8 million in annual revenue and employs 10.3 full-time individuals.

The combination of accessibility and patient confidence (among the most trusted professionals in the annual Gallup poll) puts local pharmacists in an ideal position to help address some of our country’s most pressing healthcare needs. For example, the misuse of legitimately prescribed medications is estimated to cost as much as $290 billion annually, according to the New England Healthcare Institute.

Medication therapy management (MTM) involves pharmacists working with patients to review and monitor their medication plan to maximize its effectiveness and avoid potential health problems, ultimately helping to reduce costs in the long run. With approximately 1.5 million preventable adverse drug effects occurring every year as a result of medication errors, MTM programs can greatly improve patient safety. Pharmacist-provided MTM has produced cost savings of as much as a 13-to-1 return on investment in a North Carolina study and 12-to-1 in a Minnesota study, as reported by the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association.

The fight against diabetes is another area in which community pharmacists are playing an enhanced role. They provide diabetes education to help patients manage their condition more effectively and avoid costly complications. They offer testing supplies vital to monitoring the patient’s condition and ensure that patients know how to use them properly.

For these efforts to succeed though, patients must have access to their pharmacy of choice. However, community pharmacies are finding it extremely difficult to serve the people who have depended on them for years — sometimes because of federal laws and policies, and sometimes because of the lack of them.

All the points and statistics mentioned clearly speak to the need for this caucus to continue and strengthen in the 113th Congress. The group will advocate for important issues facing community pharmacies and serve as a clearinghouse for members, staff and other interested parties about the important role community pharmacies play in the delivery of healthcare. The coalition will host staff and member briefings, work with the committees of jurisdiction on related hearings and legislation, and serve as a resource for members and staff. 

We have asked all members of Congress to join us in supporting community pharmacies in their districts by joining the caucus.

Scott has represented Georgia’s 8th congressional district in the House of Representatives since 2011. He serves on the Agriculture and Armed Services committees. Welch has been Vermont’s at-large representative since 2007. He serves on the Energy and Commerce, and the Oversight and Government Reform committees. Scott and Welch are co-chairs of the bipartisan Congressional Community Pharmacy Caucus in the 113th Congress.