Washington focuses on opioids but misses an opportunity to fully utilize pharmacists in its efforts

This is the penultimate week of #APhM2018, and a time in which Washington and policy makers are hoping to make a difference in the opioid crisis facing our nation. The theme of #APhM2018 is that pharmacists are easy to reach and ready to help. We all know that there’s a lot more pharmacists could be doing to ease the burdens on patients, families, communities, and the health care system related to opioids.

This week I’ll be making my second trip of the month to the White House for the signing of the opioids legislation that Congress passed earlier in October. Along with colleagues from other pharmacy organizations, I was also present for the signing of the laws ending gag clauses in PBM contracts 2 weeks ago.

The fact that the opioids bill doesn’t contain Medicare Part B coverage of pharmacists’ opioid-related services is a major disappointment and missed opportunity for our patients. But all is not lost. The inclusion of APhA and our pharmacy colleagues in White House events shows that there is a better awareness and understanding in Congress and federal agencies regarding the broad range of services—including those related to pain management and substance use disorders—pharmacists can provide. Our time for broader coverage inclusion is on the horizon.

Another piece of big news is that APhA hosted a briefing on Wednesday, October 17, for legislative staff to inform them of the ways pharmacists are on the frontlines of the opioid crisis. Tana Kaefer, PharmD, from Bremo Pharmacies in Richmond, VA, Anita Jacobson, PharmD, from University of Rhode Island, and Bethany DiPaula, PharmD, from University of Maryland School of Pharmacy provided presentations to a packed room in the U.S. Capitol. They spoke about the barriers to pharmacists providing services that could have a real impact on opioid abuse, misuse, and treatment because of existing policies and lack of coverage for pharmacists’ patient care services or compensation for pharmacists’ patient care services for pharmacists.

I want to thank Tana, Anita, and Bethany for doing an outstanding job sharing this vital information with the Hill staff who attended the briefing and for helping to spread the word that pharmacists are easy to reach and ready to help, during American Pharmacists Month and beyond. And I want to THANK YOU for your activism and support for the profession. Rest assured, APhA will continue to inform and advocate on behalf of our profession and for our services to be covered like those of other health care providers.

Stay in touch, and enjoy the final week of #APhM2018!