Bill would expand pharmacists' role Opponents persuade board to limit original version

March 04, 1998|By Marcia Myers | Marcia Myers,SUN STAFF

The state pharmacy board has pared a sweeping plan that would have cleared the way for doctors to delegate a range of medical tasks to pharmacists, including treatment of patients.

The original plan, modeled on legislation approved in more than a dozen states, would have given pharmacists authority to adjust prescriptions, administer medication and monitor patients with a broad range of illnesses as part of collaborative agreements with doctors.

Advocates say those agreements can mean preventive care with savings of billions of health care dollars, more convenience for patients, and better monitoring of common illnesses, such as asthma and diabetes.

But considerable opposition from doctors and others persuaded the pharmacy board to go with the more limited version when it prepared a bill for introduction in the General Assembly.

If approved, the revised plan would allow "community" or retail pharmacists to provide care in six areas: hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, pain and nausea management, asthma and anti-coagulation therapy.

"We felt that if the bill was more restrictive of pharmacists in a community setting, we might have a better chance of bringing everybody to the table and getting some support," said Pamela Owens, legislative officer for the Maryland Board of Pharmacy.

A separate bill would allow pharmacists to administer flu shots and childhood immunizations, but only with a doctor's prescription.

"Nobody would be able to walk into a pharmacy and ask for a flu shot without prior doctor approval," said Owens. Current law prohibits pharmacists from changing prescriptions or administering medication.

The bill also would require that all collaborative agreements be reviewed and approved by a state board of doctors, pharmacists and other professionals.

Officials of the American Medical Association have said they had no problem with the original plan, and suggest it could be especially beneficial for chronically ill patients who need only routine monitoring and occasional medicine adjustment.

But the state's largest physicians group remains opposed.

"Pharmacists play a very important role, but they don't have the education to perform these functions," said Gene Ransom, attorney for the Medical and Chirurgical Faculty of Maryland.

Doctors also worry that they would be held liable for errors by a pharmacist with whom they have a collaborative agreement.

Broadening the scope of pharmaceutical practice has become an aim of pharmacy schools during the past decade.

Pub Date: 3/04/98

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