Minnesota Pharmacist Legislative Day: Policy, advocacy, and pharmacy at the state capitol
On Thursday, February 20, pharmacists and pharmacy students from across Minnesota came to St. Paul for the 2020 Minnesota Pharmacy Legislative Day. I’ve been attending Legislative Day since I was a pharmacy student and have always found it a valuable opportunity to learn about the legislative process, understand current legislation that may affect the practice of pharmacy, and advocate for our profession and our patients.
This year’s agenda was packed. The morning included conversations on a wide variety of pharmacy-related issues currently active or likely to be active during the 2020 legislative session, including medication administration, improving healthcare outcomes, patient fair practices issues, and legislative priorities for the Minnesota Pharmacy Alliance. Roundtable discussions provided a chance to dive more deeply into some of the legislation topics. They were both tactical - with tips for pharmacists when meeting with legislators - as well as poignant - with heart-felt stories about how certain bills could help pharmacists better care for their patients.
The afternoon was devoted to meetings between participants and legislators. These meetings gave the pharmacists an opportunity to connect with policymakers and advocate for legislation affecting their work. A few of the standout bills for me included SF1960/HF3635, which are intended to expand patient access to healthcare, SF278, which includes numerous provisions for patient and pharmacy fair practices, and HF3122, which would establish a pharmacogenomics (PGx) taskforce.
SF1960 and its House companion HF3635 would grant pharmacists limited prescribing privileges for certain patient needs, including tobacco cessation, hormonal birth control, and opioid antagonists, with the intent to improve patient access. Pharmacists are often on the front lines of patient care, and with concerns about provider shortages - particularly for rural areas - pharmacists are a readily accessible resource for patients. Enabling pharmacists to bring these medications directly to patients could save time, money, and even lives.
The patient fair practices legislation, SF278, would update regulation of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) in Minnesota. While there are numerous provisions in this bill, the primary focus is price transparency. With the costs associated with prescription medications reaching $479 billion nationwide in 2018 according to the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science, giving patients clarity around prescription prices and the ability to effectively comparison shop is an important step in reducing overall healthcare spend.
HF3122 is of particular interest, considering my work at OneOme. This bill would request that the University of Minnesota set up a PGx expert task force to help educate healthcare providers and support successful implementation of PGx-guided care. As my colleague Julie Hessick wrote in a blog post last year, pharmacists and PGx go hand in hand. Enacting this bill would represent a good first step toward legislative support of PGx-guided care by pharmacists.
Overall, Legislative Day 2020 was a success. The legislators - both those I spoke with and those who addressed the attendees - all evidenced a great deal of respect for and commitment to helping pharmacists as we work to improve patient care.Featured image photo credit: Gabriel Vanslette (cropped) via Wikimedia Commons.