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Idaho considering legislation to further expand pharmacists' health care role

February 24, 2017

BOISE – A bill being considered by the Idaho Legislature could make the state one of the most progressive in the nation when it comes to utilizing pharmacists to meet health care needs.

On Feb. 16, Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter signed into law a bill, which allows pharmacists to prescribe FDA-approved smoking cessation products such as Chantix, Zyban, and nicotine patches. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking is not only the most preventable cause of cancer, but is also responsible for approximately $508 million in health care costs and 1,800 deaths each year in Idaho.

On Feb. 24, the Idaho House Health and Welfare Committee unanimously voted to advance another bill that that would help to broaden a pharmacist’s scope of practice in the future. House Bill 191 would give the Idaho State Board of Pharmacy the authority to determine which classes of drugs pharmacists can prescribe.

“This is groundbreaking legislation that would put Idaho at the forefront of pharmacy practice across the nation,” said Cathy Cashmore, associate dean for the ISU College of Pharmacy. “Specifically, this legislation would allow pharmacists to prescribe products for minor, self-limiting conditions and those that do not require a diagnosis.”

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, Idaho is facing a primary care physician shortage, with only 66 primary care physicians per 100,000 people, well below the national average of 81 per 100,000. This new legislation would not only increase patient access to needed medications, but would reduce the need for patients to make an appointment with a physician or physician assistant to gain access to certain prescription-only products.

“Idaho is 49th in the nation in physicians per capita; only Mississippi is lower,” Cashmore said. “Pharmacists are the most accessible of all health care providers. This legislation would increase patient access to care and reduce associated costs.”

Under Idaho law, pharmacists can assist patients with smoking cessation, tuberculosis tests, child and adult immunizations, epinephrine for allergic reactions, dietary fluoride and Naloxone for opioid overdoses. Some of these responsibilities require specialized training for pharmacists.

“We will continue to ensure that our graduates are fully trained to prescribe all products approved by the Board of Pharmacy and will be preparing approved continuing education programs and making them widely available for practicing pharmacists who feel they need updated information,” Cashmore said.

Now that House Bill 191 has cleared the Health and Welfare Committee, it will proceed to the floor of the House for debate.