Why Are We Still Asking This Question?
Posted by: Gerald “Pharmacist Jerry” Finken, RPh, MS; Contributor, Meghan Mosser
Photo credit: Meaningful Life Center
Since the beginning of time doctors have been thought of as the prescribers of the world. Pharmacists, on the other hand, have ‘just’ been the drug experts. For a while, no one questioned the fact that the drug experts weren’t able to prescribe the drugs. However, recently, people have FINALLY started questioning this.
An article titled Should pharmacists be authorised to prescribe UTI antibiotics? was recently published in Pharmacy News. The article reported about a study that demonstrated that pharmacists could indeed successfully prescribe urinary tract infection (UTI) drugs in uncomplicated cases. What I found curious is that even though this article states that pharmacists were competent to prescribe drugs for this condition, the author still chose a headline questioning whether pharmacists should be authorized to do so.
Authorizing pharmacists to prescribe for all indications would be a game changer, for the good in my opinion. Undoubtedly, though, such a move would also ruffle some feathers. If patients go to the pharmacists for their prescriptions, then where would that leave the doctor in this picture? The short answer: to practice medicine and not pharmacy. Of course, we all know that the best outcome would be the team approach where the pharmacist leads the discussion when it comes to the practice of pharmacy while getting input from the patient’s doctor and their nurse or other care providers.
Pharmacists are drug experts, not disease experts. Physicians spend their long years in school learning about diseases and how to diagnose patients. They learn minimal information about the drugs to prescribe. On the other hand, pharmacists learn only about drugs. Unlike the physician, they learn every little detail about every medication, and it is these little details that could make a life or death difference for a patient.
Allowing pharmacists to prescribe would allow patients to get a more streamlined healthcare experience. If a patient has already been diagnosed by their doctor and is feeling ill, it would be easy for them to head to the local pharmacy and chat with the pharmacist, something they probably do anyways. From there the pharmacist could either provide the patient with the medication they need, call the doctor for their advice, or refer them to the doctor for further diagnosing. This would be a big change from what we are used to, which is probably why it hasn’t been adopted yet.
Change is scary. So, instead of making a change that could benefit healthcare, we choose to stay where we are because we prefer to stay in our comfort zone with the familiar, faulty as it may be. However, great things never come easy or without risk. Allowing pharmacists to prescribe, on any level, would not only allow pharmacists to more effectively use their skills and training, but it would also streamline the healthcare system and make it more efficient.
This is one of the reasons the siteless model has been created – to bring pharmacists to the forefront of how, when and where clinical trial medications should be prescribed and used. As Center Point creates the shift from focusing only on the physician’s (investigator’s) expertise to focusing on the expertise of the pharmacist for clinical trials, the change in the commercial setting will become less scary, especially as Center Point breaks down the current barriers between clinical research and commercial. The new siteless model will show, that by having the pharmacist lead the pharmacist-clinician-patient healthcare triad, clinical trial outcomes will be greatly improved in various ways. For example, real cost reductions and greatly reduced timelines for getting a medication to market.
What do you think? Would you be comfortable having your pharmacist prescribe and dispense?