Unified pride in California law recognizing pharmacists as providers

New state law will expand roles for pharmacists and increase access to pharmacists’ patient care services


For California pharmacists, the dream of being recognized as health care providers by the state became a reality on October 1 when Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 493 into law. State Sen. Ed Hernandez, OD, (D-24) wrote the legislation, which will go into effect January 1, 2014. Gaining provider status will expand roles for pharmacists and increase access to pharmacists’ patient care services for Californians.

Pharmacists from many areas of practice came together in support of this important piece of legislation. The success of these efforts brought a sense of unified pride.

APhA Trustee Nancy A. Alvarez, PharmD, BCPS, FAPhA, felt “pleased and proud of the efforts of the many pharmacists from various sectors of the profession in the state who worked tirelessly in support of the legislation.” Alvarez is Assistant Dean of Experiential Education and Continuing Professional Development at Chapman University’s new School of Pharmacy in Orange, CA.  

“You have to give tremendous credit [to those] who showed incredible trust in pharmacists to help create the means by which the level of care available to patients will rise significantly,” said APhA Trustee Michael A. Pavlovich, PharmD, owner of Westcliff Compounding Pharmacy in Newport Beach, CA.

Expanding roles

The legislation will expand roles for pharmacists in California across the various practice settings. “All pharmacists are authorized to provide health care services, and they can administer drugs and biologics when ordered by a prescriber,” Alvarez explained. “Another example of scope of practice expansion is the ability to provide self-administered hormonal contraceptives or prescription nicotine replacement products for smoking cessation according to an accepted, statewide protocol. Pharmacists can order and interpret test results when needed to monitor and manage drug therapy in coordination with the patient’s primary care provider or the diagnosing health care professional.”

Through these expanded roles, pharmacists will have a greater opportunity to demonstrate the value of integrating pharmacists into the health care team.

Increased access for patients

As the roles of the pharmacist expand, so too will the accessibility of pharmacists’ patient care services. “Patients will experience a positive change in the current paradigm of health care delivery” through the recognition of pharmacists as providers, Pavlovich said.

This change has come at a crucial point with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act as the number of primary care physicians continues to shrink, Jon R. Roth, CAE, CEO of the California Pharmacists Association, has told pharmacist.com.

Future prospects

As pharmacists in California look forward to using their expanded roles, the state’s provider status legislation serves as a model for other states, as well as the nation. The success in the state, Pavlovich predicted, “will eventually lead to the changes in federal statutes necessary to move us from a product-centered profession to a knowledge-centered profession.”

In a time when health care is evolving rapidly, much remains to be done regarding the concurrent evolution of the roles of the pharmacist. Provider status in California serves as a stepping stone to future efforts. Each step along the way deserves celebration.

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