In its home state, Albertsons Cos. has led the way in something that’s likely to become more common: prescribing authority for pharmacists.
The Boise, Idaho-based food and drug retailer piloted a program that empowers the state’s pharmacists to prescribe for a range of health conditions. Albertsons said it tested the expanded scope of practice before the new law went into effect on July 1, making it the nation’s first large retail chain pharmacy to provide such services.
Currently, the new health care services are available in 26 Albertsons Sav-on pharmacies in Idaho.
“We’re proud to pioneer this new and practical service for our patients who regularly interact with pharmacists about their symptoms related to these conditions,” Mark Panzer, senior vice president of pharmacy, health and wellness at Albertsons Cos., said in a statement. “Now we can provide them with the treatment they need by offering easy access to quality health care services in a convenient location for conditions that often require urgent care.”
Under the new law, the Pharmacist Prescriptive Authority Rule Docket 27-0104-1701, Idaho pharmacists can evaluate patients and prescribe medications for certain common conditions, including cold sores, seasonal flu, strep throat, urinary tract infections and asthma. They also can assess and fill gaps in clinical care, such as prescribing statin drugs for patients with diabetes. For each condition, the law specifies age and risk limitations and other guidelines.
Albertsons said patients with these conditions can be seen on a walk-in basis or by appointment at the pharmacy. Pharmacists will provide one-on-one counseling, help patients fill out an intake form, perform a health screening and, if appropriate, write a prescription. The patient’s primary care doctor is notified, and a follow-up appointment is scheduled to check on the medication’s effectiveness.
Pharmacists work collaboratively with the patient’s physician and health insurer to make sure that the care he or she receives is as timely and cost effectively as possible, Albertsons added.
“Community pharmacists are already well-positioned to provide patients with the comprehensive care allowed for by this new law,” commented Pam Eaton, executive director of the Idaho State Pharmacists Association. “As the medication experts and an accessible resource for the public, this is an exciting time for pharmacists to demonstrate they are capable and knowledgeable to perform these services in a time when access to care can be limited, especially in rural areas.”
Nationwide, 18 states have given pharmacists prescribing authority for vaccinations, primarily for influenza but also other inoculations. Some states — such as California, Oregon and New Mexico — allow pharmacists to furnish patients with hormonal contraceptives or treatments for smoking cessation.
More than a dozen states have introduced legislation to expand pharmacists’ scope of practice to allow them to provide hormonal contraceptives, naloxone, tobacco cessation, travel medicines and immunizations, as well as grant them general prescriptive authority, according to the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations (NASPA).
In California, for example, Stater Bros. Supermarkets announced this week that its Super Rx pharmacies will now provide nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) to qualifying patients. The San Bernardino-based grocery chain, which has 22 pharmacies, said a state law includes a protocol that permits pharmacists to furnish NRT without a doctor’s prescription.