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It’s Over…Now What?

Harold E. Cohen, RPh
Editor-in-Chief



12/19/2012

US Pharm. 2012;37(12):1.

It’s been nearly 2 months since President Obama was reelected. As if a magic wand were waved across America, the incessant political TV and radio ads have suddenly stopped. For the first time in what seems like forever, I am receiving more first-class mail than political propaganda at home. The “robocalls” have also ceased, and those eye-catching but tacky political signs that seemed to be stuck into any spot that grows grass have disappeared from local highways and front lawns. Relative political peace and quiet has returned to our country. It’s over…now what?  

Wouldn’t it be nice to have that same magic wand instantly wipe out all the problems that gripped this country before the election? But, of course, no such magical power exists, and for most of us it is back to our daily routines of confronting the problems of everyday life, especially for pharmacists, who, like most health care professionals, face uncertainty about the future of their profession. Apart from the weakened economy and ongoing struggle with jobs creation, one of the biggest issues continues to be the cost and value of health care for millions of Americans. I am sure all the pharmacists who voted in this year’s presidential election went to the polls asking themselves how their vote would impact their professional lives.

It seems likely now that while the Affordability Care Act (ACA) may undergo some changes as it evolves, it is likely to be the new standard of health care in this country for some time to come, if not forever. And while its virtues and pitfalls will continue to be debated, I believe it will provide a means for pharmacists to finally break away from their positions behind the prescription counter and contribute to the health care community and delivery system in a new and exciting way in front of the counter.

Pharmacists continue to be in the best position to provide quality, instructive health care information to patients by way of face-to-face consultations and discussions about medication-therapy management. Today’s graduates are highly educated professionals who are anxious to take on this new role, particularly in the retail pharmacy setting. The ACA with its emphasis on wellness is an opportunity for pharmacy employers, particularly the chains, to change the way they operate their pharmacies, by entrusting the filling of prescriptions to certified pharmacy technicians while licensed pharmacists embark on their new roles as health care consultants.

The ACA and its opportunities aside, pharmacy continues to face a plethora of unresolved issues. Most recent is the challenge to define what “compounding” means and what role the FDA should play in regulating the compounding of prescriptions, issues that arose after an outbreak of meningitis in several states from a so-called compounding pharmacy in New England. While one might conclude that this outbreak was an isolated event, it unfortunately taints all pharmacists who compound drugs that continue to be unavailable from commercial sources. And that’s too bad, because as anyone who has studied the history of pharmacy knows, the art of compounding was the foundation on which modern pharmacy is built.

The list of other challenges is long and includes, but is not limited to, more equitable third-party reimbursements, drug shortages, the proliferation of counterfeit drugs, pharmacy crime, unacceptable working conditions, and the increase in doctor-shoppers.

So, what do we do now? I believe today’s pharmacists are ready to face these challenges head-on if given the opportunity. And while it will take a shift in the way pharmacy is practiced today, there is no better time to make that adjustment than now. There’s an old Chinese proverb I am fond of using to describe this crossroads: “If we don’t change the direction we’re going, we’re likely to end up where we are heading.”

To comment on this article, contact editor@uspharmacist.com.

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