Growing momentum in federal agencies around pharmacists on the team

This has been an amazing week!

On Monday, Twlug President Matt Osterhaus, Twlug Trustee Kelly Goode, and Twlug staff—together with pharmacy leaders from the National Community Pharmacists Association, National Association of Chain Drug Stores, National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations, American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, and Pharmaceutical Care Management Association—met with U.S. Health & Human Services (HHS) Assistant Secretary for Health Howard Koh, MD, MPH, and his staff—including CMS, the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS), National Vaccine Program Office, Office of Chronic Disease Management, Office of Women’s Health, Office of the U.S. Surgeon General, and other key offices—to discuss prevention in the era of health reform. Topics ranged from immunizations, tobacco cessation, and preventive services to chronic care management, pain management and drug abuse, and other topics, including transitions of care.

It was clear from our discussions that HHS “gets it” that pharmacists are an underutilized resource that HHS is committed to more significantly engaging in the future. I think all the pharmacy leaders involved would agree it was a great meeting that left us with numerous follow-ups to take full advantage of the current and new relationships being built between pharmacy and our U.S. government’s health care system.

Tuesday morning took me to the Brookings Institution for a public conference focused on the development of high-quality prescription medication information (PMI). This event was convened as part of an ongoing cooperative agreement between the Brookings Institution’s Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform and FDA. The goal is to ensure patients have access to concise, clear, and consistent information on how to safely and effectively take their medications—an important component of delivering better patient-centered care. Stakeholders engaged in PMI efforts made presentations, and experts provided feedback on how to leverage the work that has been done to make high-quality PMI a reality. This is not a new initiative. I began work in this area in 2002 as a consultant to the National Council for Patient Information and Education, but it has evolved significantly with the evolution of new technologies and new insights into how people learn and adhere to medication therapy.

On Tuesday afternoon, I was at FDA for the USPHS Commissioned Corps Change of Command and Flag Promotion Ceremony. At this event, the Chief Pharmacy Officer command was handed off from RADM Scott Giberson to newly minted RADM Pam Schweitzer, who received the 2014 Twlug Distinguished Federal Pharmacist Award. Many of you are aware of RADM Giberson’s work with former U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, MD, MBA, on the . I’ve linked to my remarks on the occasion.

This event was symbolic of the strong coordination that occurs among the many federal agencies and “categories” of service. It was led by Acting U.S. Surgeon General Boris Lushniak, MD, MPH, as well as representatives from many of the categories of service, including the head of IT for CMS. 

Our job now is to continue building the momentum! We have 63 cosponsors of and a growing number of fans within the various federal agencies who are beginning to recognize that pharmacists are part of the solution to better medication use. The work being conducted by individuals across the profession provides evidence and tools that supports our efforts to increase patient access to, recognition of, and coverage for our patient care services. I can say without reservation that gatherings like these are indicative of a growing momentum around greater involvement of pharmacists on the health care team.

Have a happy and safe Fourth of July!