Pharmacists’ services and H.R. 592 noted at House opioid hearing

Policy makers speak highly of pharmacy’s important role in addressing opioid epidemic

Members of Congress, CMS, and health care leaders noted pharmacists’ services and H.R. 592 during the House Energy & Commerce Committee’s final hearing on April 11–12 that focused on improving Medicare and Medicaid for patients amidst the nation’s opioid crisis.

The Senate Finance Committee has scheduled a similarly focused hearing this Thursday, April 19.

Pharmacists have been an underused resource in improving the care of patients, including those with chronic pain. Because Medicare does not cover pharmacists’ services, beneficiaries' access to the health care practitioner with the most medication-related education and training is limited, mainly restricted to services related to medication dispensing.

During the 2-day House hearing, Reps. Brett Guthrie (R-KY), a lead cosponsor in the House of the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act (H.R. 592/S. 109), and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) introduced letters from APhA and other national and state pharmacy organizations calling for the passage of the provider status legislation to help combat the epidemic.

In submitting a letter from the Washington State Pharmacy Association, McMorris Rodgers said that “authorizing pharmacists’ clinical services under Medicare Part B, which H.R. 592 accomplishes, would go a long way to empower pharmacists, and give them an opportunity to help address prescription drug misuse and abuse.”

In a key exchange with CMS, McMorris Rodgers noted the “important role that pharmacists can play in addressing the opioid epidemic” and asked CMS Principal Deputy Administrator for Operations Kimberly Brandt for her thoughts on using pharmacists to address the epidemic.

Brandt replied, “We think that pharmacists are a very important part of the care coordination. As mentioned in several of my answers today, pharmacists play a vital role and are on the front line of helping work with providers to address this. And we think that MTM treatments in particular have been very beneficial to beneficiaries. And we look forward to working with you to expand that.”

Health care leaders also spoke about pharmacists’ patient care services.

Geisinger Health System Chief Information Officer John M. Kravitz, CHCIO, MHA, said Geisinger embeds pharmacists in its primary care clinics and established drug take-back programs as well as using information technology and e-prescribing and implementing best practices for pain management.

Sam K. Srivastava, CEO of Magellan Healthcare, Magellan Health, included pharmacists when he suggested developing “thoughtful, evidence-based protocols to prevent patients from being prescribed inappropriately addictive, pharmacological pain management therapies, such as opioids.” Such protocols, he said, could include “reasonable” medical management techniques “consistent with best practices,” such as prior authorization and quantity limits.

 

Updated April 17, 2018

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