NACDS Chairman of the Board Mark Panzer, Senior Vice President, Pharmacy, Health and Wellness of Albertsons Companies.

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As the NACDS Chairman, I’ll start by thanking all of you. Thank you for doing business at TSE. And special thanks to our sponsors. You have stepped up.
And we appreciate you.

Serving as chairman means a lot to me. It’s the 85th Anniversary of NACDS. We’re celebrating legacy, and leadership. We’re addressing and creating change.

“I learned something in the early days of my career that reinforces the importance of advocacy. What I learned, and what is reinforced for me every day, is just how important pharmacy is to people or patients, and to the communities they serve. Pharmacy is worth fighting for.”

These are disruptive times – in retail, and in healthcare. Still, the core goals remain the same. We serve consumers and our communities, in some of the most important aspects of their lives. I want to talk this morning about the value of collaborating through NACDS – and how we are succeeding, and positioning for tomorrow.

I have been in retail for 46 years. I started in the industry at Jewel-Osco in Chicago as a high school student. Through mergers and acquisitions, the company name on my business card changed a couple of times: from Jewel Companies to American Stores, and then Albertsons. I went on to work at Rite Aid, and then Pharmaca, before returning to the new Albertsons in 2015.

All of our team members at Albertsons, our 275,000-plus dedicated associates, have their own stories, too. I would love to take a minute to show you what we are doing together as a company right now.


You, and your company, have your own stories. As NACDS chairman, I am learning from you and your stories.

When I accepted the chairman’s gavel at the NACDS Annual Meeting in April, I said that I have really come to appreciate the opportunity to listen, learn and engage at NACDS. As it turns out, I’m not alone. We have been having conversations with NACDS members – to get a solid read on how you describe the value you receive from NACDS. Very similar to my description of listen, learn and engage, some themes emerged on how members describe value. Three of them, in fact. In one bucket: Networking; meeting with business partners; and keeping up with industry trends and best practices. In another bucket: Federal and state government advocacy; presenting an industry forum to gain consensus on tough issues; Serving as the hub for grassroots advocacy; and promoting the industry’s image. And in a third bucket: Timely, useful information about policy issues, that helps us comply with regulations.

So, in short, it’s about business community and intelligence; it’s about effective government advocacy; and it’s about powerful and practical information on policy. I want to share some thoughts on each of these three areas.

Let’s first talk about business community and intelligence. Throughout my 46 years in retail, it always has been about the people – those I’ve learned from,
worked alongside, and served.

I think of my mentors. There were two store managers I worked for early on at Jewel-Osco: Matt Miles, and Dave Schoenbeck. One the definitive Marine, the other the definitive people person – different in their motivational styles, but aligned on customer service, and loyalty to employees.

There’s also Jim Young, my first District Manager. I met Jim when I started at 15 – and we worked together for 29 years. He could relate well to every team member. And then there’s Steve Mannschreck, Kevin Tripp, and Dave Maher – a past NACDS chairman – who helped me so much with corporate life.

And I think back to the summer of 1972. I was a high-school student, working in a Jewel-Osco store. There were two wonderful ladies working there: Lil, who took great pride in her cards, gifts and school and stationery section; and Renee, who handled OTC. They took pride in our team, and they took such pride and ownership of their sections. I learned marketing and merchandising from them. They didn’t have big data, analytics, or planograms. But they knew how to merchandise products, price them, keep them in stock, and take care of their customers’ every need. I learned a lot from them – especially when I didn’t do things quite up to their expectations.

It’s always been about the people that you learn from. Today, I learn so much from my colleagues on the NACDS Board of Directors. And I learn a lot from our business partners at Albertsons. We are in this together.

We are lucky to have an organization like NACDS, which provides a venue for introductions, collaboration and neutral ground to build lasting partnerships and relationships, and to consider the solutions to many of the new challenges and opportunities.

NACDS is doing a lot to bring retailers and suppliers together, to really tackle the issues of today and tomorrow. NACDS has fantastic senior-level engagement from drug, food and mass – national and regional players alike. Among our associate members, we have that same senior-level engagement, and tremendous diversity across all products and services!

Here is an example: the work of the NACDS Retail Advisory Board. It includes mainly front-end representatives, and they advise the NACDS Board of Directors on emerging issues. They have done fantastic work on digital marketing; e-commerce; multicultural marketing; understanding what makes customers happy; helping us understand specific markets across the country; blockchain; artificial intelligence; and on dissecting the ways that companies of different sizes can and do work together. This is an outstanding group of people, and their work shapes and informs what we do here at the Total Store Expo.

Where do we go from here as an association? For one, we can continue to focus on realizing the vision that the Total Store Expo can foster conversations for the entire store: pharmacy and the front-end; health and wellness; technology; distribution and logistics.

So, here is my advice: go out and really do this at Total Store Expo. Go out and explore the Exhibit Hall. See the Vision 2029 pavilion. Capitalize on the Insight Sessions. Check out the Product Showcase – and, retailers, be sure to vote for the products that knock your socks off.

So, we have talked about business community and intelligence. Now let’s turn to effective government advocacy, and everything related to it: bringing a unified voice to all branches and all levels of government; grassroots engagement, industry image; and backing up our positions with credible research and data.

I learned something in the early days of my career that reinforces the importance of advocacy. What I learned, and what is reinforced for me every day, is just how important pharmacy is to people or patients, and to the communities they serve. Pharmacy is worth fighting for.

Among my many roles when I was coming up in the industry was working as a pharmacy technician. I saw my neighbors come in to shop and use the pharmacy. I saw how the pharmacist counseled and helped patients understand their medications, what OTC products would be effective, and in some cases just talk to them about their families. Even then, it wasn’t just about dispensing: “peel, lick, stick and pour.” My neighbors got the help and care they needed from their neighborhood pharmacists.

Today, the goal remains the same – to serve the customer and the patient. The fact is that there are barriers. And we need to continue to aggressively address them. And there also are many opportunities for us to do more for patients. We need to continue to focus on those opportunities.

NACDS talks about this in terms of our Access Agenda. It really does come down to the three parts of the Access Agenda: offense, defense, and addressing issues that matter to the wellbeing of our communities.

On offense, we are enhancing access to newer services: pushing for pharmacists to be able to do more – supporting and pushing to expand pharmacists’ scope of practice – whether it’s new and enhanced screenings, pharmacogenetics, or administering specific prescribed injections or new vaccines.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month. So, let’s focus on vaccinations for a minute. It wasn’t until 2009 that all 50 states allowed pharmacists to give flu shots. As of 2015, each state allows pharmacists to give at least three vaccines. Since those milestones, progress has continued. NACDS and our state partners are working to empower community pharmacists to administer all vaccinations recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2018, six states have expanded pharmacist immunization authority: Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, New York and West Virginia.

There’s been other success in empowering pharmacists to do more this year. In 2018, medication synchronization legislation was enacted in Mississippi, New Hampshire and Virginia. Several states acted to expand the ability of pharmacists to furnish medications: Colorado, Maryland, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Idaho, Iowa, plus the District of Columbia. These are real opportunities when it comes to playing “offense.”

When we talk about defense, we are talking about preserving patients’ access to care. If you are not on the pharmacy side of the business, your eyes may gloss over when we talk about “DIR fees.” It may not help when you find out that “DIR” stands for “direct and indirect remuneration fees.” Basically, the way things have come to work, a pharmacy can be reimbursed for a prescription, only to find out later that a portion of that reimbursement is being clawed back by a payer. This is not a sustainable business model. So, reforming DIR fees is a top priority for the industry and NACDS.

Just a few weeks ago, the NACDS RxIMPACT grassroots program pushed hard on this issue. We urged members of Congress to sign a letter to the Secretary of Health and Human Services – calling for DIR fee reform. The National Community Pharmacists Association and National Grocers Association did the same. Twenty-one Senators and 83 members of the House of Representatives weighed in. We need to aggressively fight for DIR reform and an acceptable solution for all concerned parties. That’s clear.

On our Access Agenda, those are examples of offense and defense. The third area – serving as working partners for stronger and safer communities – includes being part of the solution to the opioid abuse epidemic. Federal agencies and the Congress are acting on our policy recommendations. So are state governments. Our new recommendations include: limits on initial opioid prescriptions for acute pain; mandatory electronic prescribing; a nationwide approach to leverage technology to help keep opioids out of the wrong hands; and new disposal solutions.

Take electronic prescribing – which helps stop fraud and abuse. It was not that long ago that NACDS was on the leading edge of urging the Drug Enforcement Administration to allow e-prescribing of controlled substances. Now, it’s not just about allowing it – which took effect in 2010. Now, we’re working to mandate it.
We have moved from a question of “may” to a question of “mandatory.”

This year, five states have enacted some sort of mandatory electronic rescribing legislation: Arizona, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Iowa, and Massachusetts. That brings the total number of states with some sort of NACDS-backed mandate to 11. We have pending legislation in four additional states: California, Michigan,
New Jersey and Pennsylvania. And the U.S. House of Representatives has passed federal legislation. A Senate Committee has passed the bill, too, so it’s on track.

On drug disposal, legislation enacted in Washington State earlier this year now is being shown by NACDS as a model for other states. It has many of the essential qualities for the public good. It’s flexible enough to be responsive to local needs, yet it creates a statewide program rather than a patchwork quilt of community-by-community approaches. All of these issues will demand continued leadership.

So, we’ve talked about productive business community and intelligence. We have talked about effective government advocacy. That leaves the third aspect of value that has been identified by the membership: powerful and practical information on policy. Our chain and associate members have unique needs in these areas. As the NACDS chairman, I want to help you make the most of the resources that are available to you.

For chains, we hope you took part in the Forum and the Compliance Roundtable yesterday. Regional Chain representatives, be sure to participate in our monthly conference calls on unique topics that may be of interest to you and your company. Our associate members have access to regular meetings and calls as well – to keep updated on diverse issues that affect your business.

As Steve mentioned, we are contributing to the national debate on issues that affect the NACDS membership broadly – like tax and trade policy. If you aren’t receiving NACDS e-ssential, the daily review of industry news, you can subscribe through a link that is included in the daily TSE emails that you are receiving.

Be sure to check out the NACDS website if you haven’t lately. You can gain insights on diverse business and political topics. You can even g