NACDS government relations ally Connie Woodburn recently stepped down from her position as senior vice president of government relations at Cardinal Health, one of the nation’s largest healthcare supply companies, after 19 years.

Pharmacists are an important part of the clinical practice because no one understands medications as well as a pharmacist.

Woodburn initially worked in corporate sales for Cardinal, but as the company expanded, the need for a comprehensive government relations program—at the federal and state level, including a political action committee—became more and more apparent. Woodburn had never run a government affairs department before, but 19 years later she has a proud list of accomplishments to consider.

Woodburn saw many changes in healthcare during her career—an issue she says was always challenging—but she says the Affordable Care Act triggered a “dramatically huge pace of change.” Woodburn also faced the average manufacturer price (AMP) issue early in her career and was focused on protecting retail pharmacy to ensure they were properly reimbursed. Woodburn noted that the years she spent on the issue were recently bracketed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ release of the final rule on Medicaid Average Manufacturer Price (AMP)-based federal upper limits (FULs).

Woodburn said another issue she worked on successfully with NACDS—that had a profound impact on the industry—was pedigree and track and trace requirements, the originally proposed approaches to which would have proven costly for pharmacies and other supply chain operators without marked benefits for patient care. She said the entire industry came together in a massive effort to do what was right for patients and the industry, and protect the supply chain. Woodburn said the united, years-long effort ultimately resulted in a “huge success for everyone involved.” Woodburn voiced gratitude to NACDS for all the years of collaboration and praised the staff members she worked with, including NACDS’ Carol Kelly, Kevin Nicholson and Tom O’Donnell. She said, “I know good ones when I see them.”

Woodburn also worked with NACDS on medication therapy management (MTM), pharmacist provider status and the Drug Enforcement Agency’s efforts to prevent prescription drug abuse issues.  In terms of provider status legislation, Woodburn said, “Pharmacists are an important part of the clinical practice because no one understands medications as well as a pharmacist. They are involved, engaged and should be able to work up to their licenses and be paid for all the services they provide.”

Woodburn cites the ACA as a major catalyst in driving changes in the healthcare landscape, but says the cost of healthcare is also under a lot more scrutiny. Rising healthcare costs and patients wanting their say in how, when and where they receive healthcare services has, she says, created a series of demands in healthcare that have colluded to provide a more consumer-driven approach to healthcare delivery.

Carol Kelly, NACDS senior vice president of government affairs & public policy said, “Connie had a long and distinguished career in the healthcare advocacy and operational community. During her tenure at Cardinal, she was an active and exceedingly positive participant in both the policymaking and advocacy activities. Her good judgement, intelligence, sense of humor and personal presence will all be missed.”

In reflecting on her career, Woodburn said, “I will miss the issues and the collaboration. I had a great career. I really loved it.”