NY Times highlights pharmacists’ evolving role

NEW YORK Adding plenty of fire power to the rapidly improving image of community pharmacists as essential and effective members of an integrated, team approach to health care, The New York Times ran a high-profile feature Friday on the patient-care efforts of independent and chain pharmacists, including one independent pharmacy owner in Augusta, Ga.

The story, which appeared on page one, highlights the evolving role pharmacists play in improving patient outcomes and medication adherence –– and in serving as “a buffer against an anticipated shortage of primary care doctors,” in the words of Times reporters Reed Abelson and Natasha Singer. The report also demonstrated pharmacists’ expertise in providing medication therapy management, and in working in collaboration with health plans like Blue Cross Blue Shield and Humana to improve outcomes and lower health costs.

Quoting independent pharmacist David Pope of Barney’s Pharmacy in Augusta, as well as one of his loyal patients, the article painted a largely favorable portrait of the fast-evolving pharmacy profession. It also highlights the patient-care and adherence efforts of such drug store and supermarket chains as Walgreens, Kroger, and Raley’s, along with pharmacy franchiser Medicine Shoppe.

Also featured: collaborative health efforts from groups such as  the Wisconsin Pharmacy Quality Collaborative.

“The pharmacists,” notes The Times, “represent the front line of detecting prescription overlap or dangerous interaction between drugs and for recommending cheaper options to expensive medicines.” In addition, say the writers, pharmacists have “the education, expertise, free time and plain-spoken approach to talk to patients at length about what medicines they are taking and to keep close tabs on their well-being.”

The Times article is one of several high-profile reports to appear in print, television and online media over the past year exploring the expanding role pharmacists play in community health and cost-saving initiatives. Such groups as the National Community Pharmacists Association and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores –– which promotes community pharmacy as “the face of neighborhood health care” –– have waged a long campaign to boost recognition of pharmacists’ value among both consumers and policymakers in Washington.

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