More than 6,000 attend APhA annual meeting


SAN FRANCISCO — The American Pharmacists Association Annual Meeting and Exposition drew more than 6,100 pharmacists and student pharmacists form March 24-27 in San Francisco.

This year’s theme, “Making an Impact in Patient Care,” served as a mandate for attendees to step up efforts in patient care and demonstrate why pharmacists should have a much larger role in any new federal health care policy.

On Friday, a session titled “Provider Status: It’s Happening,” focused on the opportunities that exist on state and federal levels to achieve recognition and payment for pharmacists’ patient care services. Jeffrey Rochon, PharmD, CEO of the Washington State Pharmacy Association, detailed how pharmacists in Washington got SB 5557 passed in early 2015 — a bill requiring commercial or private health care plans regulated by Washington state to enroll pharmacists into their provider networks. It mandates that these plans pay pharmacists for services provided if they are within a pharmacist’s scope of practice.

APhA SVP Pharmacy Practice and Government Affairs Stacie Maass, BSPharm, JD, also spoke about federal provider status legislation, the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act, which was reintroduced in Congress in January and now has 146 cosponsors in the House and 33 in the Senate. Maass discussed the general health care environment paving the way for pharmacist-provided care, especially the need for increased patient access to health care.

During Saturday’s Opening General Session, APhA President Jean-Venable “Kelly” R. Goode, PharmD, BCPS, FAPhA, FCCP, wasted little time in asking attendees to commit to doing more for the profession. “I challenge each of you to have the courage to seek the new,” she said. About the quest for federal provider status, Goode told attendees, “We will win this battle in 2017.”

With health care a hot topic in Congress, Rep. Earl L. “Buddy” Carter (R-GA), BSPharm, spoke at the annual meeting, citing the importance of pharmacists’ involvement in federal health care policy. “Sometimes we [pharmacists] underestimate what we do,” he said. “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu. Finally, we’re at the table,” Carter added.

Carter, the only pharmacist in Congress, spoke about the pharmacist provider status legislation making its way through Congress. “We’ve been doing this [pharmacists’ patient care services] for years,” he said. “You need to be recognized and compensated for it.”

Opening General Session keynote speaker Elliot J. Krane, MD, acknowledged the role of pharmacists in health care and specifically in the problem with opioids. He shared his perspective about the need to be sensitive to recognizing patients with opioid addiction when they see them. Every pharmacy should have a take-back program, though that isn’t easy, he added. Krane advocated for increased access to naloxone and a national prescription drug monitoring program.

“Exposure to opioids alone does not cause addiction,” said Krane, a practicing physician and professor of anesthesiology, perioperative, and pain medicine at Stanford University Medical Center. “Factors such as genetics and psychiatric illnesses create a predisposition to addiction.”

At APhA2017’s second general session, APhA President-elect Nancy Alvarez, PharmD, BCPS, FAPhA, echoed the sentiment of other speakers, challenging attendees to show that they care about their patients. “Treating the patient, not the number,” she said. “As our profession gains provider status recognition, success will come from active engagement of patients who know we care,” said Alvarez, who is the assistant dean of experiential education and continuing professional development at Chapman University.

Alvarez, who will be the 162nd APhA President, urged pharmacists to be bold in the pursuit of recognition. “Be a player! You can take control over that by which you can influence. We do not need to wait to be essential health care providers,” said Alvarez.

AphA 2018, carrying the theme “Leading Our Communities in Patient Care,” will take place March 16-19 in Nashville, Tenn.

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