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12/11/2001

Government Affairs Division Charts Course for 2002

Kate Traynor

During the year ahead, ASHP’s Government Affairs Division hopes to see gains at the federal and state levels toward the legal recognition of pharmacists as health care providers.

"That will be our top federal legislative priority," said Kathleen M. Cantwell, Esq., director of federal and legislative affairs at ASHP.

ASHP refers to the project as the "provider status" campaign. In essence, Cantwell said, the campaign seeks recognition of "pharmacists, under federal law, as health care providers, so that they’re able to bill Medicare for their services."

The issue gained momentum this past summer when the Medicare Pharmacist Services Coverage Act of 2001, a bill initiated and supported by ASHP and the American College of Clinical Pharmacy, was introduced in the House and Senate.

"It is a landmark event in ASHP's—as well as pharmacy's—history to have legislation introduced in both houses of Congress," Cantwell noted.

But gains at the federal level must be accompanied by changes at the state level, said Kristina E. Lunner, ASHP’s director of state legislative and regulatory affairs.

"If the federal legislation passed today, only 33 states could fully take advantage of it," Lunner said. The pharmacy practice acts in these states allow pharmacists to perform collaborative drug-therapy management (CDTM) services. The federal legislation, if passed, would rely on the states to define pharmacists' scope of practice and would allow pharmacists to be paid for performing authorized CDTM services.

Lunner said resistance from medical societies is often a key issue to overcome in amending a state's pharmacy practice act to authorize CDTM.

"Frequently, the medical society in a state is a very powerful lobby," Lunner said. "Physicians often resist expanding the scope of other professions that they believe encroach upon medicine."

Lunner said she encourages state pharmacy society members to talk with their state medical societies and to educate physicians on the benefits of CDTM. She said physicians need to know that "pharmacists practicing in collaboration with physicians help physicians provide better care to their patients."

An issue that arose late this year—bioterrorism preparedness—has assumed a prominent place alongside more familiar pharmacy practice topics.

ASHP’s Director of Federal Regulatory Affairs, Gary C. Stein, Ph.D., said he is "monitoring very closely" the actions of federal agencies that deal with counterterrorism. Stein is particularly interested in how federal activity that should involve pharmacists is "filtering down to the state and local levels."

For example, Stein said, "when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sends out the National Pharmaceutical Stockpile in response to a bioterrorist incident, pharmacists should be very much involved in the distribution of that material."

Because deployment of the stockpile requires state involvement and is not instantaneous, Stein said pharmacists "should also be involved in assessing what’s available on a local level prior to the availability of that National Pharmaceutical Stockpile."

Currently, Stein said, pharmacy’s involvement in bioterrorism preparedness is "not as much as we’d like to see."

Cantwell urged ASHP members to get involved in all advocacy issues that affect the profession. "We can’t achieve change without their participation," she said.

ASHP Government Affairs Division Staff

Brian M. Meyer, M.B.A., Director, Government Affairs Division

Kathleen M. Cantwell, Esq., Director, Federal Legislative Affairs and Government Affairs Counsel

Kristina E. Lunner, Director, State Legislative and Regulatory Affairs

Gary C. Stein, Ph.D., Director, Federal Regulatory Affairs