Rx association feels need to police itself

Thursday, July 31, 2003

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) has developed a 40-hour program that trains pharmacists and allied health professionals, including DMEs, on how to properly fit therapeutic footwear.

The new course is in response to a CMS initiative to clarify ambiguous language regarding who can provide therapeutic footwear. Some fear the initiative could limit the provision of therapeutic footwear to podiatrists, pedorthists, orthotists and prosthetists. Currently, much of the Medicare therapeutic shoe business falls to pharmacists, DME providers or others who have been trained to fit the shoes, often by shoe manufacturers.

“CMS is concerned that there are unscrupulous people out there who feel they can spend an hour with a provider and then say they are qualified to fit therapeutic shoes,” said Bill Popomaronis, NCPA’s director of pharmacy specialty services. “That is not the case. I think (the course) will achieve our goal of having pharmacists have standards and a code of conduct that the nation will be proud of. We feel a responsibility to police ourselves.”

NCPA officials hope CMS views the instruction as comprehensive and as such won’t bar providers who complete it from furnishing the footwear.

NCPA represents almost half the 25,000 independent pharmacists in the United States.

The NCPA course takes the fitting and dispensing of therapeutic footwear to the next level, said Larry Schwartz, vice president of Apex Foot Health Industries in Teaneck, N.J.

“One of the reasons manufacturers in our industry have had to be so proactive with their own educational programs is because there hasn’t been a program like NCPA’s,” Schwartz said. “I think the NCPA course will become the standard.”

Among other things, the course covers anatomy of the foot, pedorthic evaluation, gait analysis, foot disorders, sports-related foot problems, arthritic and diabetic foot issues and orthotic footwear. It also goes more in-depth on diabetes because of the special complications it presents.

The course’s faculty and advisory board includes a practicing orthopedic surgeon, a board-certified pedorthist, a professor of physical therapy and a pharmacist with a successful therapeutic footwear business.

NCPA will launch the course at its annual convention in October and begin offering it at regional locations around the country, said Kathryn Kuhn, who oversees the course for the association. HME