Perry Cohen, CEO of The Pharmacy Group, Talks Countries' COVID-19 Responses

January 29, 2021
Briana Contreras

In this second part of a two-part video series, MHE Senior Editor Peter Wehrwein and Associate Editor Briana Contreras speak with Perry Cohen, Pharm. D., CEO of The Pharmacy Group. Perry has been on MHE's Editorial Advisory Board for over 25 years and has contributed a number of interviews and guest articles toward the publication. In this discussion, Briana, Peter and Perry talked about Sweden, Japan and the United States' response to COVID-19 and Cohen addresses the U.S.'s response under the new President Joe Biden Administration.

An excerpt of a conversation with Perry Cohen, Pharm. D, CEO of The Pharmacy Group, includes healthcare delivery and COVID-19 responses between Japan, Sweden, and the United States. Cohen address the United States response under the new President Joe Biden Administration.

Q: Data collected on COVID-19 responses in the U.S., Japan and Sweden were released in a recent webinar and were provided in a recent article you wrote for Managed Healthcare Executive. Data in the U.S. was collected as responses under the Trump administration. So now that, you know, we're under the Biden administration, can you just share maybe some of your thoughts on how this COVID approach will change under his lead, whether that be mask mandates, COVID-19 testing, a vaccine?

A: Yeah, well, what we learned when we had the seminar on December 2, is we had a physician from Sweden, Japan, and a moderator business person from the United States talk about their experience in 2020. How their respective countries had handled the crisis; good, bad and indifferent. And they told us pretty candidly, what they had done. And then we talked about where things are going. They each had a different perspective based upon the culture in that country, and the government and how they treat it, you know. In the United States we're the only country that doesn't have a social mandate for universal coverage. And the government then operates off of that fragmented piece that we have all the other countries, Japan, Sweden included, they have a social mandate for universal coverage.

So government has a directive, if you will, to take care of everybody collectively. So I think the President, Mr. Trump, was acting off of the mandate that we have the United States: let us do our own thing. And so we would have fought any kind of coordinated, controlled piece. And so he was one of them. And I think a chunk of the population was happy with that and some people weren't.

When you're dealing with a public health issue, above everybody else, you got to get right on the same page. And you got to know what the truth is. And the unfortunate thing is, there's three ways we get information right now: we either get it from the media - whether it's Fox News, or NBC or LA Times; we get it from the politicians, what's their version of the truth, the other media's version of the truth, the politicians version of the truth. And you have the third bucket, which is the truth, which you find out from people on the ground, mostly physicians.

So that's what we put on our program. We got two positions from the ground in Sweden, and Japan to tell us what's really going on, and we had 100 people dial in and they really liked getting a real perspective.

I noticed yesterday, for example, you know, Biden said, I'm going to let Fauci do the talking for me, and I'm going to go back and be president. If Mr. Trump would have done that it would have saved them some, you know, awkward moments, I'll say, because when you're talking about public health, I think you're talking about physicians, and we're in their wheelhouse, and let's do what they say. And hopefully you have the right physicians at CDC and FDA and NIH, making policy decisions that we all live by. I think you're going to see some of that now. So I think you'll see a little better cooperation now. And the question is, will we all get on the same page with that and say, "This is what's best for the country?"