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Southern Illinois University Edwardsville School of Pharmacy
2016 Pharmacy Legislative Day
by Scott Sexton, Tim Oyer, Pharmacy Students, Class of 2017
On March 2nd, 2016, student pharmacists and pharmacists coming from Schaumburg to Edwardsville gathered in Springfield with a unified purpose – to advocate for the future of pharmacy. The 10th annual ICHP and IPhA Legislative Day gave students a chance to take a look into the legislative process that so importantly affects the profession of pharmacy. This annual event gives student pharmacists the opportunity to make a lasting change in the advancement of the profession.
Beginning in the Howlett Building, students gathered for lunch and were able to network with other students and pharmacists from across the state. This was an excellent opportunity to reconnect with old friends and meet new colleagues from other schools. Everyone was excited to learn about the “hot bills” currently making their way through the Illinois House and Senate that could affect pharmacy. When lunch concluded, students filed into the auditorium to be briefed on the topics of the day.
In this informational session, students were given advice on how to approach their legislators and discuss bills with them. Scott Meyers (the ICHP Executive Director) and Garth Reynolds (the IPhA Executive Director) briefed the audience on the bills in the House and Senate with the most potential to affect the profession of pharmacy. Senator Dave Syverson then took the stage and declared his appreciation for the profession of pharmacy. He discussed health and education legislation and allowed questions from the floor. Students and pharmacists alike were able to ask crucial questions regarding their field of practice.
The legislation with the most considerable impact on pharmacy this year happened to be going through both the Senate and the House as companion bills SB2515 and HB5591. The focus of both bills is improving patient access to pharmacist care services. Pharmacists are the most accessible – and in some cases the only – healthcare provider for our patients. These proposed bills allow pharmacists to provide more patient-centered services that they are sufficiently trained to offer. Additionally, these bills seek to place regulation on Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs), which currently have minimal oversight. These bills also aim to combat the issue of medication non-adherence by making it easier for patients to synchronize their medication refills. With medication nonadherence being a burden on healthcare expenditures and patient safety, this is a critical component. If passed, this bill would ensure that the patient’s right to choose the pharmacy that they wish to use is preserved and that they will not see restrictions or penalties to copays.
Other keys bills that the pharmacy organizations supported include HB5809, which stated that the “practice of pharmacy” includes prescribing and dispensing of contraceptives, and HB3627, which would allow pharmacists to administer all ACIP recommended vaccines for patients 10 years of age and older. SB3336 and HB6180 are companion bills titled Quality Assurance Programs that did not receive support from pharmacy. The concern with these bills was that the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation would be able to review medication errors and use this information for disciplinary purposes.
Following this informational session, students and pharmacists set out on their mission. The rotunda in the capitol building was abuzz with student pharmacists gathering for a cause. The capitol was shining bright with the white coats of students making their way towards their respective legislators. It was clear that student pharmacists were taking this noble task seriously. Even though legislators are motivated individuals, it is impossible for them to know the intricacies of every bill passed due to their busy schedules and the sheer volume of bills that pass through. Students had the chance to speak with legislators and sit in on a House Hearing concerning Higher Education. This was a unique experience to see representatives from specific districts defend their constituents and debate the possible effects of legislation. Following the hearing, students gathered back at the Howlett building to meet Governor Bruce Rauner. Governor Rauner was there to show his support for the profession of pharmacy and meet student pharmacists from across the state. Many students were fortunate enough to take “selfies” with the governor.
Legislative Day is a valuable event for pharmacists and student pharmacists to make their presence known and inform their representatives about the potential effects of legislation. It provides an opportunity to exercise a collective voice as a profession. As student pharmacists represent the future of the profession, they have a duty to shape that future. It is imperative that student pharmacists embrace this responsibility and advocate for their profession.