Pharmacy faculty take hands-on approach to support legislation to improve health care
The pharmacy industry is one of the most regulated professions on both a national and state level, and pharmacists can have significant influence on legislation that impacts how they provide care to their patients.
Two proposed laws affecting pharmacy were introduced during the most recent session in the South Carolina Legislature.
The Pharmacy Access Act, which will allow pharmacists to prescribe contraceptives to women without requiring an exam by a medical doctor, was signed into law. It will go into effect in December after the state boards of pharmacy and medical examiners approve training and documentation protocols. The Compassionate Care Act, which would have provided for the legal sale of medical marijuana failed to pass.
Patti Fabel, executive director of the Kennedy Pharmacy Innovation Center, has testified as a member of the South Carolina Pharmacy Association in response to several proposed legislative issues. Those include a bill that would have removed pharmacists from the health care team within methadone clinics, a bill allowing pharmacists to administer influenza vaccines and, most recently, the Pharmacy Access Act.
“Someone told me years ago that if you’re not at the table, you are on the table,” she says. “I would rather have my opinions heard than have someone else make those decisions about my profession. I became active with the pharmacy association to keep up with legislation as well as to be involved.”
When a pharmacist is on a care team, outcomes are improved, and it also helps reduce the cost of care. We all need to support advocating for issues that help improve access.
Patti Fabel, Pharm.D. Executive Director, Kennedy Pharmacy Innovation Center
Patients are at the forefront of Fabel’s advocacy as she supports proposals that help improve the pharmacist’s role in providing care and access.
“Increasing access to care improves patient outcomes,” says Fabel. “When a pharmacist is on a care team, outcomes are improved, and it also helps reduce the cost of care. We all need to support advocating for issues that help improve access.”
Gene Reeder, '73, professor and director of Outcomes Research, stresses that pharmacists need to be aware of what is happening legislatively, both in their states and at the national level. For example, one of the most effective ways to keep track of issues being discussed is to create a search on the South Carolina legislative website that will send an alert if a bill comes up related to that topic.
“Pharmacists can help educate lawmakers, and they need to advocate for their patients, knowing that what they do is important for public health and in the best interest of their patients,” he says.
Reeder notes that the best way to assist in helping to form policy is by getting to know legislators and taking time to make a connection with them.
“You have to be proactive – know your senators and representatives, introduce yourself and make yourself available to them, so that when a critical issue does arise, they know they can turn to you,” he adds.
Kathy Quarles Moore, lab director for community and compounding labs, has taken groups of students to Washington, D.C., to meet with legislators and their staff.
“It is so important that we, as pharmacists, both professionals and students, get involved. We need to advocate for our profession,” she says. “When we were on the Hill, they were appreciative and wanted us to provide insight from our perspective about the patients we serve. We are in a unique position to be able to do that.”
Senior Associate Dean Julie Sease says that getting involved can mean writing a letter, making a phone call, attending legislative committee meetings or joining a pharmacy association.
“Being an engaged member can help you know about what your peers may be advocating for,” she says.
And she reminds pharmacists that advocating for their patients is part of the oath they take.
“We pledge to embrace and advocate changes that improve patient care,” Sease says in reciting the oath. “If you have something that you are passionate about or believe in, you have to be willing to do something about it.”