Pharmacists leading the way in issuing prescriptions

Pharmacists to write more prescriptions

POCATELLO - Paying for that next doctor's appointment to get a prescription could soon start becoming a thing of the past.

State lawmakers are deciding on a proposal that could allow your pharmacist to write you a prescription right there at the pharmacy.

Currently, this applies to products related to help folks stop smoking they would normally need a prescription for, such as Chantix and Zyban.

Idaho State University has the only College of Pharmacy in the state, and according to college officials, roughly 60 students graduate from the program each year, with more than 60 percent of those graduates deciding to stay and practice in Idaho. Those from that program are backing this move.

"Healthcare costs in this nation are spiraling completely out of control," ISU College of Pharmacy's Dr. Catherine Cashmore said. "Any way we can get a handle on those costs and bring it down a little bit is really helpful."

Cashmore said this move will decrease costs since now folks don't have to go to a doctor for a prescription for these particular prescription smoking-cessation products. 

"Pharmacists are the most accessible of healthcare providers, and it now won't require a doctor's visit first," she said.

On February 16, Governor C.L. Butch Otter signed this into law. It will take effect July 1.

Cashmore said students will not see a change in curriculum, since these students already have the knowledge and training to prescribe prescription drugs, they are just now able to put that knowledge and training to use.

"Everyone thinks that we just take pills from big bottles and put them into smaller bottles, and then hand them to you...but there's a lot more going on behind the counter than anyone is really aware of," she added in response to her students already having the training behind these prescription drugs.

"We're also double-checking for drug-disease interactions, for drug-drug interactions, for drug-herb interactions, etc. Even drugs you think of as being safe and natural such as St. John's Wort, that probably interacts with a quarter of the drugs on the market. We need to know these things."

One big part of this measure will also allow pharmacists to have more interaction with patients. The pharmacy program at ISU has integrated "motivational interviewing" into the curriculum to find the patient's "tipping point" that would help them make that lifestyle change.

For Cashmore, it's personal, especially after her own mother died of lung cancer.

"If I could have a conversation with (my mom) and say, 'Mom, I would love for you to still be around to get to know your grandkids,' that might have motivated her to change where nothing else did." 

She said smoking is responsible for $508 million in healthcare costs across Idaho, and tobacco use is the largest preventable cause of death in the United States.

Currently, lawmakers are looking at House Bill 191, which is another proposal to expand the gambit of prescriptions pharmacists could write, but it will be up to the Board of Pharmacy to determine what pharmacists will have authority to write prescriptions for.

She added, Oregon was the first state to enact this type of movement, with Idaho being the second in the entire country.

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