Jun 1, 2018
Authority over medication dispensing has traditionally resided with physicians prescribing and pharmacists filling orders under state licensing procedures. However, the COVID-19 crisis highlighted capacity limitations in the healthcare workforce that prevented timely access to medications. In response, federal and state policy changes granted qualified pharmacists temporary powers to dispense certain drugs without a patient-specific prescription during public health emergencies. These short-term allowances demonstrated potential efficiency gains should properly trained pharmacists take a more active role in medication management within their expertise.
Given pharmacists' drug knowledge and public accessibility, states are exploring expanding their scope of practice on a permanent basis after the pandemic emergency measures expire. Empowering pharmacists to dispense products like oral contraceptives, and other consumer healthcare products could improve access and outcomes.
Empowering highly trained pharmacists to take on more patient care responsibilities related to medication management serves the public interest by increasing healthcare accessibility and efficiency. States should strongly consider building on temporary pandemic dispensing policies by permanently allowing pharmacists to dispense more routine drugs for common conditions within their expertise — provided appropriate patient safeguards remain in place.