Pharmacies wants pharmacists to prescribe medications

Major Pharmacy Chains Push for Pharmacists to Prescribe Medications

The ongoing debate about expanding pharmacists’ rights to prescribe medications is heating up as the healthcare landscape evolves. With drugs becoming more specialized and a noticeable shortage of primary care physicians affecting timely access to medical care, there’s a growing push for pharmacists to have more authority in prescribing medications.

Leading the charge are major online pharmacies such as CVS Health, Walgreens, Walmart, and Amazon. These giants argue that pharmacists, often the first point of contact for patients with medication-related queries, are well-equipped to handle more responsibilities, including prescribing certain medications.

This push has seen practical applications, notably through the Biden Administration’s “test to treat” initiative. This initiative has allowed state-licensed pharmacists to test for Covid-19 and prescribe treatments like Pfizer’s antiviral Paxlovid immediately, aiming to reduce hospitalizations and deaths from the virus.

Pharmacies cite the success of the “test to treat” program as a key example of why pharmacists should be granted broader prescribing rights. Pharmacy executives emphasize that today’s medications require a level of expertise that pharmacists possess, making them more than capable of managing prescriptions and advising on drug interactions and side effects.

John Colaizzi, Jr., a pharmacist and Walgreens vice president of pharmacy practice, noted in a recent article, “When patients think of a pharmacist, they often think of the person they see behind the counter managing their prescriptions, but they are equipped to do so much more than that.” Colaizzie highlights the push for federal provider status legislation and state-level changes to better utilize pharmacists’ training and skills.

The drive to expand pharmacists’ roles is also framed as a response to the growing shortage of healthcare workers across the U.S., offering a practical solution to ensure that patients receive the care they need efficiently and cost-effectively. Retail and online pharmacies view the ability to “test and treat” as an addition to the range of healthcare services they already offer.

Amazon and Walmart are among those incorporating new technologies, including generative AI, to enable pharmacists to dedicate more time to clinical care over administrative tasks. Walmart has already rolled out testing and treatment services for COVID-19, strep throat, and the seasonal flu in over 1,100 stores across 14 states.

However, this movement faces significant resistance from the medical community. The American Medical Association and state medical societies argue that care should be primarily physician-led due to training and educational differences. In Illinois, for instance, the Illinois State Medical Society is actively opposing efforts by pharmacy chains to adopt a “test and treat” model that would allow pharmacists to diagnose, prescribe, and treat a wide range of health conditions.

Dr. Piyush I. Vyas, president of the Illinois State Medical Society, expressed concern over the push for a new business model that prioritizes profit over patient care. The society argues that pharmacists lack the necessary training and education to diagnose, prescribe for, and treat serious health conditions, highlighting the fundamental disagreement at the heart of this debate.

As the conversation continues, the role of pharmacists in the healthcare system remains a contentious issue, with both sides presenting arguments about the best way to provide accessible and effective care to patients.

What do you think? Would you trust a pharmacist more to prescribe your medications over a physician?

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