Annual NASP Meeting Kicks Off With a Renewed Call for Advocacy

With change on the horizon in the health care sector, the 6th Annual National Association of Specialty Pharmacy (NASP) Meeting and Educational Conference returned with a strong message echoing the importance of advocacy on behalf of patients and the profession as a whole. Serving as one of the keystone events of the year in specialty pharmacy, the NASP meeting has grown exponentially since its inception. This year’s meeting, held September 24-26 in Washington, DC, saw more than 1000 attendees fill the bustling halls at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park.

“This conference is the place to be to learn about all of the innovative developments in a progressive and dynamic industry,” said outgoing NASP President Michael R. Agostino, RPh, during the meeting’s opening ceremony. “The NASP annual conference is a time we invest in ourselves as professionals and come together as a comprehensive representation of specialty pharmacy.”

This year's meeting included the annual specialty pharmacy law conference, a home infusion preconference workshop with experts from the National Home Infusion Association, a single-day prep course for the specialty pharmacist certification exams given in October by the Specialty Pharmacy Certification Board, the annual Women in Specialty Pharmacy Luncheon, 20 breakout sessions, nearly 9 hours of continuing education activities, and 28 poster presentations.

“Specialty pharmacy is a dynamic industry that is constantly adapting to the changing health care landscape,” Agostino said. “Our ability to adapt and stay nimble in this environment is directly linked to our focus on patients and the care they need. Patients remain at the center of everything we do as specialty pharmacy professionals and as NASP members.”

Following the release of the Trump administration’s blueprint to lower drug costs earlier this year, NASP representatives emphasized the need for members to advocate for the field of specialty pharmacy at the national and local levels. Agostino praised the efforts of NASP's government affairs committee for offering consistent education and nonpartisan insights and developments for members.

"Many people on Capitol Hill are not aware of the positive impact specialty pharmacy has on improving patient outcomes and reducing health care costs," Agostino said. “Our goal is to cultivate long-term relationships with leaders in Washington and connect with specialty pharmacy champions who advocate on our behalf.”

Such relationships and advocacy efforts are especially vital given the threat specialty pharmacies face from direct and indirect remuneration (DIR) fees, which Agostino said NASP has urged the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to block plan sponsors from using.

“DIR fees have a financial impact on patient out-of-pocket expenses and do not correlate with servicing specialized conditions,” he said. “Today, specialty pharmacies are immediately disadvantaged within a Part D network. NASP voices a consistent message for increased transparency. NASP advocacy efforts focus on eliminating barriers that cause patients to abandon treatment."

Agostino noted that supporting NASP's mission to elevate the entire practice of specialty pharmacy by addressing each individual component is a massive undertaking, requiring an organizational infrastructure that is ready to respond to any issue that may rise. He praised the work of NASP’s members and volunteers for their work powering forward the various goals of the group. NASP Executive Director Shelia Arquette, RPh, heaped equal praise on the attendees, who represent some of the top organizations in the specialty space. “Your innovation, creativity, and commitment to service and excellence are truly inspirational,” Arquette told the audience during the opening conference kickoff session. “It is your dedication, passion, and focus on positively impacting the patient care journey that put the ‘special’ in specialty pharmacy.”

Arquette also announced the winners of 2 annual awards: The NASP Distinguished Service Award went to Rebecca Shanahan, JD, CEO of Avella Specialty Pharmacy, and the NASP Specialty Pharmacy of the Year Award was given to PANTHERx Specialty Pharmacy.

“This award isn’t my award. This is for all the associates we have back in Pittsburgh who work tirelessly to serve our rare disease patients,” said Gordon Vanscoy, PharmD, MBA, CEO of PANTHERx Specialty Pharmacy. “Our patients are the reason why we exist, and honestly, I firmly believe that’s why our colleagues work so hard.”

With Agostino officially completing his 1-year term as NASP president, he performed the ceremonial passing of the gavel to new president Carmine DeNardo, RPh, president and chief executive officer of ReCept Pharmacy. “I joined NASP 5 years ago to fulfill a need to give back to a profession that has given so much to me,” DeNardo said. “The past 5 years I’ve gained confidence and comfort in knowing that I’m working with industry leaders who understand patient care. That is why they joined the profession in the first place. A common thread throughout NASP is our patients. The patients we serve are in need of services that only specialty pharmacies with clinical knowledge and education can deliver.”




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