We have written extensively on the ability of non-MD healthcare providers, namely nurse practitioners and physician assistants, to lower prices and increase access to medical care for consumers. But more low-hanging fruit for improving our healthcare system can be found in giving greater scope of practice to pharmacists and other pharmacy workers.
Florida is the only state in the Union that allows pharmacists to write prescriptions, albeit from a limited set of medications. Across the Atlantic, pharmacists and other non-MDs in the U.K. have been allowed to prescribe since 1992.
While greater expansion of prescribing powers in the rest of the U.S. may be a long way away, pharmacists are allowed to administer vaccines (mostly for the flu, though some states allow other vaccinations.)
Last month, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law a bill, passed unanimously by both houses of the legislature, that would give pharmacy interns and externs the ability to vaccinate patients under the supervision of a pharmacist. From the bill:
A pharmacy intern or pharmacy extern, as defined by regulation of the New Jersey State Board of Pharmacy, may administer immunizations to patients by injection or by other delivery method, provided that the pharmacy intern or pharmacy extern is acting under the direct supervision of a licensed pharmacist who…is pre-approved by the New Jersey State Board of Pharmacy to administer vaccines and related emergency medications, and who is in compliance with the rules jointly promulgated by the New Jersey State Board of Pharmacy and the State Board of Medical Examiners.
The reform is quite modest. Nonetheless, it expands scope-of-practice rules to the benefit of both patients, who can now access vaccines more easily, and pharmacy interns and externs, who can now be more productive in their roles.