Healthcare Compliance Packaging Council Discusses Healthcare Reform at the White House and Senate
On July 21 representatives from the Healthcare Compliance Packaging Council met with staff members from the White House Office of Health Reform to discuss the role that pharmaceutical packaging can play in driving down national healthcare costs and improving the pharmaceutical supply chain. Walter Berghahn (AmerisourceBergen Packaging Group), chairman of the HCPC Board of Directors, as well as HCPC Board members Sandra Luciano (Alcan Packaging) and William Sharpless (Winpak) were accompanied by HCPC Executive Director Peter G. Mayberry and Associate Director Kathleen Hemming.
"They were really engaged from the very beginning," reports Mayberry. "I thought it was an excellent discussion."
HCPC shared published data outlining the economic consequences of pharmaceutical noncompliance -- a problem that drains more than $177 billion from the national economy every year.
The HCPC expressed to the White House staff that unit-dose packaging with compliance-prompting features can help reduce the problem. Other benefits the group mentioned include eliminating the need for pharmacy repackaging, which minimizes dispensing errors and frees pharmacy personnel to better counsel consumers; ensuring drug product efficacy; hindering counterfeiting and diversion; and providing a vehicle for track-and-trace technologies.
Conversation also touched on comments made by President Obama during the course of his presidential campaign as well as during his administration's first days, which centered on preventative steps that can be implemented to keep Americans healthier and thereby reduce national healthcare spending. "We pointed out that FDA already has the authority to mandate greater use of unit-dose packaging which, in turn, has the potential to improve pharmaceutical adherence by at least 10%," Mayberry explains. "At a bare minimum, that translates to annual national savings of $18 billion while also giving consumers all the other benefits afforded by superior packaging."
"Overall," Mayberry reports, "our goal was to impress upon the White House that pharmaceuticals are the backbone of the U.S. healthcare system, and the administration cannot transform the national healthcare system without transforming the way pharmaceuticals are distributed and dispensed in the United States."
Following the meeting with President Obama's staff, the HCPC contingent traveled to the Russell Senate Office Building to meet with staff from the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. "The staff member we spoke with was a professional pharmacist by training which really made for a great discussion," says Mayberry. "She knew exactly where we were coming from and indicated her appreciation of unit-dosing packaging from a pharmacy perspective."
Mayberry went on to note, however, that private sector third-party payer reimbursement issues were a concern to the HELP committee staff. In response to these concerns, HCPC representatives noted that existing reimbursement policy is based on the number of pills dispensed, but if Congress mandated that reimbursement be based on packages rather than pills -- or if Congress mandated that pharmaceuticals be shipped in unit-dose formats -- these concerns would be eliminated.
"We went to great lengths to explain that we are asking for change, fundamental change, in the way pharmaceuticals are distributed and dispensed in the United States. National elections in 2006 and 2008 were all about the need for change and voters came out in droves seeking an end to the status quo. What we have now, therefore, is an opportunity to improve healthcare in the United States, reduce costs, and better protect our pharmaceutical supply chain. It would be a pity if this opportunity was lost over reimbursement policies that evolved due to distribution practices adopted by pharmaceutical manufacturers for the U.S. market during the past fifty years."
The HCPC is now developing follow up material requested during these introductory meetings, and hopes to meet with both the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch of the U.S. government. In addition, the HCPC is reaching out to other offices of the Administrative Branch and other Committees within the United States Congress.