Pharmacy and Politics: The Two Can Mix

Pharmacy Careers
Volume 0

Mr. Adams is a 2009 PharmD candidate at the University of Toledo.

Sometimes, the past reaches out to touch the future. At Christmas a few years ago, a family friend was browsing antiques on eBay and came across one she thought would havemeaning for me. As I unwrapped its box, I discovered a vintage glass prescription bottle. The label across its front was partially torn, but I could still make out a handwritten portion withthe insignia of my great-grandfather's pharmacy. I paused to take in the history of that bottle—not just from a family perspective, but with respect to the profession of pharmacy as well.

Sen John McCain and
Alex Adams

Sen John McCain and Alex Adams

The container came from Adams Pharmacy sometime after it opened in 1917—a time when drugs were not classified as prescription or over-the-counter, nor were they evaluated forsafety prior to marketing. When my grandfather graduated in 1940, he practiced in an era that saw the rise of insurance coverage and a decline in widespread compounding; my father, on the other hand, is of the generation that cast off the typewriter in favor of computers that screen for drug interactions and allow automated refills.

The antique bottle helped crystallize my appreciation of the fluidity of our profession. Turning points have arisen throughout pharmacy's history, and though often subtle as they occur, they have the ability to define the profession for the next generation.

Pharmacy is in the midst of one such turning point, as we attempt to broaden our clinical services through the use of medication therapy management. Numerous studies show the value of pharmacists in improving patient outcomes and reducing overall health care expenditures. As a profession, however, we must effectively "sell" these services in the public and political arenas.

Alex Adams and
Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur

Alex Adams and Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur

It was in this context that I decided to get politically involved. After the 2004 presidential election, I submitted an application to intern for Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D, Ohio) and worked in both her district and Capitol Hill offices. I read and responded to constituent requests, attended hearings on health policy, and got a wonderful tutorial on federal government. When I returned from Washington, DC, however, I realized I had gotten it wrong—the nuts and bolts of pharmacy practice are more likely determined by state legislatures, not Congress.

Then in 2006, I was hired to manage State Rep Mark Wagoner's reelection to the Ohio House of Representatives. I still work with him through today and manage his election to the State Senate. Living this dual life makes for interesting days; studying hematology in the morning, then going door-to-door at night; composing a response to a drug information question, then calling volunteers for upcoming events, and so on. This experience has allowed me to get both a unique perspective on our profession and a behind-the-scenes look at how the state legislature operates.

Currently, of the 132 members of the Ohio legislature, zero members are pharmacists. Thus, the way we practice is governed by individuals without a direct hand in pharmacy. To ensure that we have a voice, all pharmacists and pharmacy students need to get involved in the following ways:

  • Know your state representative and senator. This information is easily accessible on your state's Web site.
  • Make sure your state representative and senator know you. They want to know their constituents. A proactive personal relationship is a very effective tool, so invite them to speak at your campus American Pharmacists Association meeting, attend a town hall meeting, volunteer on their campaign, etc.
  • Contact your state representative and senator regularly. You can bring issues to their attention or voice your opinion on proposed legislation. Again, this will be most effective if you develop a personal relationship.

Pharmacy has a proud and successful history. One by one—and working together—we can secure its recognition as a vital partner in the health care systems of the future.

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