Fort Lauderdale, Fla. – The 2018 National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) Regional Chain Conference provided the year’s first in-person opportunity to mark NACDS’ 85th Anniversary. The focus was placed on the same topic that spurred NACDS’ creation in 1933: the future.

The NACDS Regional Chain Conference brings together traditional drug and grocery chains with between four and 250 locations, and their supplier partners who help to meet consumers’ needs in health and wellness and throughout the store. This year’s theme of “Igniting Possibilities” tapped into the Conferences’ reputation as an ideal place for chains and suppliers to address issues, share insights, learn from effective strategies, and conduct business.

Dan Ferrara, 2018 NACDS Regional Chain Conference chairman and vice president, pharmacy operations for Wegmans Food Markets, Inc., set the tone of collaboration and community by declaring, “I love it when the whole family gets together.”

As is tradition for the Conference chairman, Ferrara described his company and its philosophy. He quoted the words of company founder Robert B. Wegman: “I really always just tried to take each person’s life and think about how I could make it just a little bit better.”

Applying this to the industry’s vision for the future, Ferrara said, “As our environment evolves, we must evolve with it. We must embrace the opportunity to make a positive impact in the lives of others through healthcare.”

Alex Gourlay, NACDS Chairman of the Board and co-chief operating officer, Walgreens Boots Alliance and president, Walgreen Co., said, “Pharmacy is beautifully positioned, as it always has been, to take care of changing shifts in the customer and in the marketplace…We start, as pharmacy, with a natural advantage, being really close to where people live, where they work, and where they spend time in their communities.”

He provided an update on a survey and report of NACDS chain members’ community engagement and corporate social responsibility initiatives, a project that he first described at the 2017 NACDS Annual Meeting. Gourlay described the importance of telling and improving the industry’s story.

“I have been in the industry for 40 years – 36 years as a pharmacist,” Gourlay said. “I understand through personal experience and I have a huge passion for what pharmacies and pharmacists can bring, and continuing to build trust is a key part of our future.”

As an example of NACDS’ engagement on pharmacy and front-end issues alike, Gourlay described work of the NACDS Retail Advisory Board to help identify successful elements of collaboration between chains and suppliers of varying size. That project – referred to as a critical issues quadrant analysis – is available in the Membership Resources section of

Gourlay noted the importance of front-end focus: “I will always speak from a pharmacy point of view, because I believe pharmacy is what gives all of us the unique purpose and differentiation in the marketplace. At the same time, all of the products, services and solutions that come from retail product manufacturers are mission critical.”

Gourlay described the importance of NACDS’ work on issues including direct and indirect (DIR) remuneration fees, pharmacy reimbursement topics, and the opioid abuse epidemic – topics that were the subject of further discussion by NACDS President and CEO Steven C. Anderson, IOM, CAE, as well as by other speakers and panelists throughout the Conference.

Anderson described NACDS’ focus on these issues in the context of the Association’s member-centric approach – and in the context of NACDS’ 85th Anniversary.

Anderson said, “It is the membership that keeps NACDS spry. It is the membership that keeps NACDS vibrant, and cutting-edge, and completely focused on the needs of this industry – just as it was on day one, back in 1933.

“An anniversary is a great time to look at NACDS through the eyes of those who created it. A National Association of Chain Drug Stores did not exist, and they decided it needed to. If they were operating pharmacies today, I can imagine the founders of NACDS sitting in this room joining in our talks about modern-day policy – about the need to have access to the patient; about prescription-drug reimbursement challenges; about being blindsided by a DIR fee.”

Anderson cited remarks of an NACDS founder from the Association’s earliest days, as well as current business advisors and other significant figures throughout history, to describe the necessity of collaboration to address key assumptions related to one’s view of the future.

As this pertains to NACDS’ work on DIR fees, Anderson said, “Here is an assumption that is right on. It is not sustainable for a pharmacy to be paid for prescription services, only to find out later that it must give back some of that payment. Addressing that in a meaningful, workable and effective way remains our goal, and NACDS has worked with our allies on a consistent basis on this issue…That is Economics 101 – markets and businesses need some basic levels of predictability and stability.”

Anderson emphasized the importance of working together through NACDS on pharmacy and front-end issues alike.

“Whatever the issue, NACDS is totally committed to bringing about workable and successful solutions, that only can be achieved by true collaboration,” he said.

The Conference furthered discussion and action on array of pharmacy, health and wellness, and broad front-end issues, including direct and indirect remuneration fees; the opioid abuse epidemic; business-building strategies; healthcare quality; pharmacy patient care; community engagement; omnichannel; pharmaceutical trends; workplace policy; millennial and centennial marketing; and more.

The Conference also featured productive One-to-One Business Conferences, a popular aspect of the schedule that fosters collaboration among NACDS chain and associate members.

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