NACDS Responds to Express Scripts CEO Comments That Disparage Pharmacists, Show Disregard for Pharmacy Patient Care
2/23/2012 4:15 PM
NACDS says “pill counters” comment rivals Medco CEO’s “robots vs. pharmacists” comment in insensitivity toward patients and pharmacists alike
Following in the tradition of Medco CEO David Snow, who disregarded neighborhood pharmacists in remarks at a Cleveland Clinic conference last October, Express Scripts CEO George Paz today revealed his apparent less-than-high-esteem for the otherwise highly popular profession.
Associated Press business writer Tom Murphy quoted Paz as saying the following during a conference call with analysts: "At the end of the day ... Nexium is Nexium, Lipitor is Lipitor, drugs are drugs, and it shouldn't matter that much who's counting to 30."
“These CEOs told Congress in two recent hearings that they like pharmacists. Their comments about pharmacists in other settings may not rise to contempt of Congress, but they certainly meet the standard for contempt of patient care,” said National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) President and CEO Steven C. Anderson, IOM, CAE.
“This comment by Express Scripts CEO George Paz rivals the insensitivity toward patients and pharmacists demonstrated by Medco CEO David Snow in his now infamous ‘robots vs. pharmacists’ comment.”
Paz’ latest remark likely will be radioactive among pharmacists, who rightfully bristle at any incorrect and derogatory suggestion that they merely count pills. In fact, NACDS emphasizes pharmacy's role as the "face of neighborhood healthcare," emphasizing the "unparalleled value" of pharmacists as demonstrated through services including medication counseling, vaccinations, health screenings and education, and disease-state management.
NACDS notes successes like North Carolina's ChecKmeds NC program, which is an example of how face-to-face medication therapy management (MTM) services for Medicare patients have helped to deliver a return-on-investment of $13.55 for every $1 invested. Also, in the annual Gallup poll that measures public opinion of honesty and integrity across professions, pharmacists have ranked in the top three for nine consecutive years, and in every year but one since 1981. A July 2009 PricewaterhouseCoopers report found that respondents reported the least amount of difficulty in accessing care from pharmacists when compared with other healthcare professionals.
That did not stop Medco CEO David Snow from saying at a Cleveland Clinic healthcare conference in October 2011, as quoted by Pharmaceutical Executive magazine: "I'm not dissing retail [pharmacy], but there's a fiction that a pharmacist comes out and dialogues with you. In reality, a high school student hands you a script from the shelf." He also said that Medco's "robots" are "twenty-three times more accurate" than human pharmacists.
Snow's "robots vs. pharmacists" remarks touched off a firestorm of controversy. NACDS said that the remarks present an indicator of Express Scripts' and Medco's true intentions for patient care if their merger is allowed to proceed. Express Scripts and Medco are pharmacy benefit managers (PBM), middlemen who deal in pharmaceutical insurance.
Following Snow's "robots vs. pharmacists" comments, NACDS said, "These comments are a window into the true thinking of the companies that are seeking to merge. If there were any doubt about their intent to impose mandatory mail order on more patients, depriving patients of their choice of pharmacies, then these comments should erase such doubt at this point.
"When it serves their purposes, such as under tough questioning at a September 20 Congressional hearing, these companies speak of their partnership with community pharmacy. Then, they turn around and devalue and disparage community pharmacy. One has to wonder about what their true intent means for patients, employers and health plans."
Since that time, consumer groups, members of Congress, anti-trust watchdogs, and many others have pointed to Express Scripts' and Medco's slights to pharmacy in their letters to the Federal Trade Commission, which is reviewing the PBM mega-merger.
National Black Chamber of Commerce CEO Harry C. Alford and U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI) are among the most recent to reference the "robots vs. pharmacists" comments.