Oregon expands prescribing for pharmacists

Advisory committee to develop formulary of drugs and devices eligible for pharmacist prescribing

In May, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed into law a bill that allows pharmacists to prescribe and dispense drugs or devices without a physician’s prescription, provided that a health professional has already made a relevant diagnosis and the drugs or devices are on a formulary to be established by an executive committee of allied health professionals. The law expands the previous Public Health Advisory Committee and renames it the Public Health and Pharmacy Formulary Advisory Committee to reflect the inclusion of three pharmacists along with two physicians and two nurse practitioners.

Under the law, pharmacists will also be able request that the committee add a drug or device to the formulary. The committee may recommend drugs or devices to the Board of Pharmacy for inclusion, and the board may add them via rule, rather than go through the state legislature to create and pass laws.

The rule process will save valuable time for all involved, including lawmakers, said Marcus Watt, RPh, executive director of the Oregon Board of Pharmacy. He said the success pharmacists have had in Oregon with prescribing contraception and administering influenza immunizations set the foundation for the law’s passage.

“The legislature realized what a resource pharmacists are and had developed a level of trust. The process now allows for faster and appropriate access to drugs and protocols,” Watt said.

“Five years ago, we didn’t have this bill in mind. But over the last 2 or 3 years, as things evolved, we thought, ‘yes, a formulary is better than going to the legislature every year,” said Bill Cross, lobbyist for the Oregon Pharmacy Coalition, a partnership among the Statewide Pharmacy Coalition, the Oregon State Pharmacy Association, and the Oregon Society of Health-System Pharmacists. “Many of the incumbents were already familiar with us, and they know what pharmacists are in today’s world and what they can do, so we didn’t just come in with this bill [out of nowhere].”

Cross added that much of the legwork involved getting buy-in from groups like the Oregon Medical Association and the Oregon Nurses Association. “When we got to this bill in 2016, we sat down with [both groups]. They had concerns, so we made sure they would be represented on the advisory committee.”

Watt called the law’s passage a win for both patients and pharmacists.

“I believe it will be very positive. In certain parts of our state and metropolitan areas, it can take 28 to 34 days for a person to see a provider. If you need something now, that’s a long time to wait,” Watt said. “I see this as an incredible opportunity for pharmacists to step up and not only benefit the public, but grow the profession and get more job fulfillment. It will change the way people see pharmacists.”

The law took effect upon Brown’s signature, and relevant state boards are in the process of finding candidates for her to appoint. Watt hopes the Public Health and Pharmacy Formulary Advisory Committee will be assembled and ready to meet in October or November.