Eddington Leads School of Pharmacy Group to Advocate Key Issues with Md. Legislators
With this session, the Maryland General Assembly has an unprecedented opportunity to help pharmacists expand their current means of providing quality patient care, said an energetic delegation of more than 100 students and faculty members from the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy in Annapolis for their annual legislative advocacy day.
"This year is especially important for us because we are advocating for laws that really facilitate and expand the practice of pharmacy, like the therapy management contracts. We are looking to extend that bill, which provides a mechanism for physicians and pharmacists to work together to optimize patient therapy," said Natalie D. Eddington, PhD, dean of the School.
Small groups of pharmacy students, accompanied by Eddington or other faculty members, met with individual legislators to also urge support of a point-of-care bill that would allow pharmacists to perform Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments-waived testing (CLIA).
CLIA is a standard by which the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services regulates U.S. laboratory testing performed on humans. The School and affiliated pharmacy groups advocate removing current legal restrictions in Maryland, which prohibit pharmacists from performing CLIA-waived tests. Most other states don't restrict their pharmacists, said Eddington.
"We need a way of knowing how the patient is doing therapeutically on their medication," explained Eddington. "CLIA allows us to follow a patient who might be diabetic, to monitor blood glucose levels, to do minimum blood sampling, to gather information on their hyperlipidemia status [such as cholesterol and triglycerides], and anti-coagulation status. These small steps are major steps in terms of how we practice as pharmacists."
The students began their day with advice from Del. David Rudolph, of Cecil County, who is a member of the School's Board of Visitors and a sponsor of key pharmacy legislation. He advised the student pharmacists to tell the legislators that "the first thing you do, and the most important thing you do, is take care of patients."
Rudolph said that the task of filling prescriptions is just part of the process. "Please keep the vim and vigor you demonstrate here today throughout your profession. Whether you will be working in a hospital, in a local pharmacy, or in a big chain store, you have to have that passion for your profession and what you bring to patients every single day."
Del. Donald Elliott, a pharmacist who represents parts of Carroll and Frederick counties, told the contingent their efforts will be rewarding, citing accomplishments in 2008 when passage of five pharmacy laws made Maryland "the first state to have comprehensive legislation pertaining to pharmacy benefit managers." Pharmacy benefit managers administer prescription benefits for employers and health insurers.
"It's important for our students, while they are still in school, to focus on their role in advocacy in terms of their profession," said Eddington. "They are very energetic. They are very committed. And, we hope that these experiences today will carry them through their profession."
The advocacy day was sponsored by the Maryland Pharmacy Coalition.