Pharmacy response to the "AMA Scope of Practice Data Series: Pharmacists"

June 15, 2010

The CEO of APhA responds to the recent AMA policy statement on the place of pharmacists in healthcare.

Key Points

The document contained references to limitations in pharmacists' education and capabilities, and warnings about doctors' participation in collaborative drug therapy management (CDTM) agreements with pharmacists. In light of the spirit in which Michael D. Maves, MD, MBA, AMA executive vice president and CEO, shared the document with me, I thought it was important to provide a thoughtful and constructive review that created an accurate portrayal of the pharmacy profession and might actually lead to meaningful dialogue between pharmacy and medicine.

A collaborative response

As is the case with healthcare reform, we are working to keep all pharmacy organizations pulling together. That not all signed on to our comments is not an indication of discord, but rather a function of the specific elements of the AMA document that needed careful review. We submitted our letter of joint comment to AMA (April 16, 2010) and have had a follow-up discussion with Dr. Maves. We are in the process of getting time scheduled with AMA to discuss our input further.

The pharmacy perspective

The document upon which we commented suggested that pharmacists are attempting to usurp roles traditionally fulfilled by physicians. In fact, we believe pharmacists are filling roles not filled by anyone today, in ways that are seriously needed by patients. Access to immunizations has been dramatically increased with the training of more than 100,000 pharmacist-immunizers. And the growth of medication therapy management training and services has dramatically enhanced outcomes in patients' use of medications.

Meanwhile, we are making great strides in collaboration with our physician colleagues. And we continue to get "good press" from many nonpharmacist organizations that see the value of pharmacists as medication coaches in collaboration with other healthcare professionals and as part of the medical or health home. Organizations as diverse as AARP, the Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative, the Joint Commission, the Association of Academic Health Centers, and the Institute of Medicine have all recognized contributions that pharmacists can make on the healthcare team.

Educators of pharmacists have also made great strides in accreditation standards for PharmD students; not only are we prepared today, but we're enhancing that training to prepare for the future.

Growing a historic relationship

Historically, the relationship between pharmacy and the AMA has been positive. Recently, APhA supported an AMA grant application to enhance emergency preparedness and response. If AMA is awarded the grant, the project would bring pharmacists and physicians together on teams to meet the needs of disaster victims such as those in Haiti.

We will continue to look for ways to grow our relationship and to support collaborative patient care. Good things will come from close, nonpredatory, and nondefensive collaboration with the healthcare team. That's our goal and the intent of our outreach to AMA.

I have high hopes of connecting with our physician colleagues for the betterment of our patients. Visit http://www.pharmacist.com/ to see how we're doing.

Thomas E. Menighan is the executive vice president and CEO of the American Pharmacists Association.