Setting the Pace, in More Ways Than One
Independent pharmacy has had to embrace change since the pandemic took hold in early 2020. Perhaps there was no one more equipped to adapt and evolve than Scott Pace, who has spent more than two decades changing the way community pharmacies do business. We recently spoke with Pace about his years of service with NCPA and the Arkansas Pharmacists Association, and how he and his wife, Anne, have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I was involved in a ton of legislative battles trying to expand pharmacy practice and curtail the bad actions of the Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs).”
Scott and Anne Pace have owned and operated Kavanaugh Pharmacy in Little Rock, AR, since 2013, but their journey began several years prior in the nation’s capital. After earning his pharmacy degree from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Scott accepted a position with the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) in Washington, D.C. Anne chose the same career path, only she arrived from Drake University in Des Moines, IA. It is here where they met, working for the same organization that represents independent pharmacy.
“It was a great opportunity for us to have a good foundation before we jumped into ownership,” Scott said.
That foundation continued to strengthen upon relocating to Arkansas two years later. After working at an independent store initially, Anne was asked to join the faculty at the University of Arkansas College of Pharmacy, a position she held for several years. Meanwhile, Scott served as both COO and CEO with the Arkansas Pharmacist Association over a 12-year stretch.
“I was involved in a ton of legislative battles trying to expand pharmacy practice and curtail the bad actions of the Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs),” Scott said.
In fact, Scott was a central figure in a major win for the industry. He was one of the authors of Arkansas Act 900 in 2015, which SCOTUS unanimously favored in the recent Rutledge vs. PCMA ruling.
“It was something that caught the PBMs off-guard from the standpoint of how thorough and comprehensive it was,” Scott said. “And they didn’t like it.”
As a result, the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA) challenged the law. The December 2020 decision by SCOTUS now gives states the ability to legislate in this key area, not just Arkansas.
“I think it’s super exciting and something I’m proud of,” Scott said. “It (2020) has been a good year.”
2020 was a good year for the Paces from a business standpoint as well, in spite of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Scott says a colleague of his said it best when reflecting on 2020, boiling the historic year down to two words: despite and because.
“Because of 2020, we have opened up service lines of business that we would’ve never dreamed of one year ago today,” Scott said. “And despite 2020 and all of the challenges, we’ve been able to figure out ways to innovate and serve our community.”
“On any given day, we’ll do between 60 and 90 COVID antigen tests. Our business has changed dramatically in the last several months.”
One such way the Paces innovated was by offering COVID-19 antigen testing starting in July, a demand which spread quickly. They hired a scheduler and additional pharmacist to meet the demand along with building an online scheduling platform in rapid fashion. In the final week of 2020, the store had crossed its 8000th test since mid-summer.
“On any given day, we’ll do between 60 and 90 COVID antigen tests,” Scott said. “Our business has changed dramatically in the last several months.”
In addition to getting a head start on COVID antigen testing, Scott and Anne have set the pace with regard to COVID vaccinations. Kavanaugh Pharmacy received two shipments of the vaccine in December, distributing the first batch to rural hospitals in northwest Arkansas in cooperation with the Arkansas Department of Health. The second shipment was given to community-based providers.
It was really important to make sure that those front-line providers and hospitals had the first access to the vaccine in our state,” Scott said.
Additionally, the Paces have finalized a lease on a space a few blocks down from the pharmacy which will serve exclusively as a COVID vaccination center. The purpose is to not overwhelm the store’s capacity with the high demand for COVID vaccinations.
“The vaccine is going to continue to be more and more prevalent and we’ll continue to get shipments almost weekly,” Scott said. “We’re excited about that.”
Scott and Anne’s proactive response to the COVID-19 pandemic is in keeping with their belief of always being available. Like a lot of community pharmacists, their cell phone numbers are on the front door of the store.
“The biggest gift the community has given us is people responding to us,” Scott said. “And hopefully the biggest gift we can give to the community is being available when they need us.”
The Paces will be needed more than ever in 2021, a critical demand they’re prepared to meet.
Take a run through Kavanaugh Pharmacy by visiting their website.