With assistance from pharmacy groups including APhA, the House Community Pharmacy Caucus recently held a “pharmacy 101” briefing in Room 122 of the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, DC.
The three speakers—representing APhA, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS), and the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA)—respectively explained pharmacists’ training, asked for congressional support of expanded patient access to medication therapy management (MTM), and noted the need to pay pharmacists for their patient care services. Approximately 50 staffers from congressional offices and pharmacy groups attended the 1-hour briefing on December 17, 2013.
“Some Members of Congress and their staff do not understand the education, training, and knowledge that pharmacists possess. The briefing helped to spread the word in Congress that pharmacists do more than just dispense medications,” said APhA Senior Lobbyist Michael Spira. “The more that Members of Congress and their staff understand all that pharmacists learn in school, the better chance pharmacists have of successfully advocating for issues that are important to the profession, such as provider status.”
For APhA, Cherokee Layson-Wolf, PharmD, CGP, BCACP, FAPhA, Associate Dean of Student Affairs at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, described pharmacist education, licensure, and continuing pharmacy education by way of informing those in the audience of the extent of pharmacists’ knowledge and capabilities. “More and more clinical positions out there require” 1 or 2 years of postgraduate training, she said.
All of this training can be applied to pharmacists’ services, including patient education, wellness and prevention such as immunizations, and disease state management including MTM, according to Layson-Wolf. “Drugs are one thing that we have to emphasize, but wellness and prevention have been a major role that we’ve played as pharmacists” such as with screenings, she said. Immunizations are “another huge area of impact” as “pharmacists in all 50 states are able to immunize patients.”
For NACDS, Charley John, PharmD, Pharmacy Supervisor at a Walgreens store in Washington, DC, linked pharmacists’ services to patient outcomes. He defined MTM, briefly sketched the impact of poor medication adherence, and provided evidence of how MTM improves outcomes and saves money. He called for passage of the MTM Empowerment Act of 2013 (H.R. 1024/S. 557), which would expand MTM eligibility to a single chronic disease, and cited bipartisan support for the bills to the tune that day of 157 cosponsors for the House bill and 30 cosponsors for the Senate bill.
“There’s not a more exciting time for me and my profession,” said John. “I am so proud to be a pharmacist because the challenge that is upon me is to affect patient outcomes. That is what I am seeing every day in my career.“ John told an emotional story about a patient with diabetes whom he had helped. “Here’s the wild thing. That patient wouldn’t have qualified for medication therapy management. So what—do we just forget about them?” he explained to the rapt audience in urging Members of Congress to support the MTM bills. “Pharmacists are ready, willing, and eager to go out … and then we can make the interventions to get them better.”
For NCPA, Cheri Garvin, BSPharm, owner and CEO of Leesburg Pharmacy in Leesburg, VA, shared her experiences in a community pharmacy that she said was the only accredited compounding pharmacy in the Washington, DC, region. Garvin said that MTM may not always reduce drug spend—but there is an overall reduction of health care costs.
Garvin articulated a dilemma in community pharmacy of “no payment” for pharmacists’ patient care services. “We’re stuck,” she continued. Pharmacists know the return on investment for patients—“but can the business survive?” Garvin concluded that Members of Congress should keep pharmacy on their radar. “Remember us, and remember your patients,” she said. “Reach out to us.”