Progress Towards Combatting Issues in Independent Pharmacy

Whether it was the ability to vaccinate, whether it was the ability to test, whether it's now the ability to prescribe Paxlovid for patients, those are big progress moves for the profession of pharmacy.

Christine Lee-Wilson, Owner of Professional Pharmacy MD, and Nimesh Jhaveri, President, Community Pharmacy and Health, spoke to Pharmacy Times about public policy and advocacy in pharmacy.

Jhaveri: There is progress. We have progress at, really, 2 big levels. One is at the federal level, and two is at the state level. So, let me hit on a couple of them. At the federal level, certainly the pandemic showed the value that pharmacists could drive. Whether it was the ability to vaccinate, whether it was the ability to test, whether it's now the ability to prescribe Paxlovid for patients, those are big progress moves for the profession of pharmacy. We finally also have DIR legislation that's moving in the right direction. So, there’s progress there. At the state levels, we have a whole bunch of examples of what’s going on. California had a big win for independent pharmacies on retroactive payments, to the tune of over $140 million. Georgia—huge change in the dispensing fee for Medicaid. We've had legislation in New Jersey, for PBM transparency—in Ohio. I think across all of these things, we're starting to see those differences start to occur. But again, where I get nervous is that we don't do a victory lap, that we continue to push and press and communicate and advocate and work with our legislators to help them understand what's going on and what we do. I think half the battle, is helping our legislators understand what this person does, what a pharmacist really does and the value they drive. If we can do that, I absolutely believe that we'll even make progress.

Lee-Wilson: And to Nimesh’s point talking about the progress we've made, so in the state of Maryland's, I think about the last 20 years. Twenty years ago, we weren't able to vaccinate, and that would have been a huge issue these past few years. You think about, when I started practicing, that was 1 of the first items that we were testifying against, so ability to vaccinate. Then after that, it was the ability to do certain injectables. Then just recently, Maryland has approved the ability to do other long-acting injectables. The issue was we were asking for that prior to COVID, and we did not receive that support prior to COVID. And so, what happened during COVID? Many mental health patients were not able to get the medications they need. Access became a huge, huge issue. I feel at that point, then the issue was brought up again, well, why aren't the pharmacists providing that service? When we reintroduced legislation this past session, that was passed, and now I am proud to say that we're working on writing those regulations, but that has taken so long. I know that pharmacists get frustrated—they want to get involved and they want to get out there and talk to the policymakers. They get frustrated because things go so slow. I just want people to know that it’s not a sprint, it is a marathon. It takes years and years. For people that want to get involved now, they're super lucky because so much of the work has been done for them, like they're getting in—they get in now, I kind of feel like they're going to be able to do the victory lap and the celebration dance that we've all been working on.