In 2020, the American Medical Association opposed a declaration from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that allowed pharmacists and pharmacy interns to administer vaccines to children between three and 18 years old.
At the time, the federal agency said the expanded scope of practice was necessary to reverse the recent drop in childhood vaccination rates due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but AMA President Susan R. Bailey, MD, countered that COVID-19 is not a reason to do an end-run around scope-of-practice laws. Allowing pharmacists to administer vaccinations is the wrong solution, Bailey said.
The skirmish is only the tip of the iceberg of a larger issue that is brewing between retail pharmacy and the medical community in the United States. As retail pharmacy attempts to transform into a healthcare destination and seeks expanded scope of practice for other services, the fight between the two entities is likely to intensify.
Other countries are facing the same issues. In April, The Guardian newspaper reported that after a successful pilot project the state of Queensland, Australia, passed a measure to allow pharmacists to prescribe medicines for uncomplicated urinary tract infections. The paper reported that other states, such as New South Wales and Victoria, are developing their own pilots so pharmacists can administer medicines (such as health and travel vaccinations) and prescribe drugs for UTIs, skin ailments, ear infections and birth control. But similar to here, the Australian Medical Association said allowing pharmacists to prescribe a wider range of medicines is a threat to patient safety and undermines the health system.
Our cover story this month takes a look at the gulf that exists between doctors and pharmacists and explores ways the two sides can bridge the gap. Doctors worry about the quality of care, while pharmacists stress that they are not trying to supplant primary physicians but merely act as a bridge between physicians and patient care.
Studies show that a collaborative approach to healthcare is the most effective, and our already underperforming and stressed system will require all parties to collaborate and cooperate moving forward. Our health depends on it.