Salem, Oregon— In May, Governor Katherine Brown made headlines by signing a bill into law that will give pharmacists across the state the authority to prescribe a set list of medications and devices. As early as the first of 2018, they will be able to both write and dispense a variety of “post-diagnostic” treatments, including albuterol inhalers, diabetic test strips and potentially even emergency refills for insulin in type 1 diabetics.

The key distinction in pharmacists’ new prescribing authority versus that of physicians’ will be tied to diagnosis. The approved formulary list will set guardrails to limit pharmacists to only those interventions that do not require diagnostic intervention. Instead of seeing this as competition, this new power is intended to free up small pieces of time for doctors to focus on other essential parts of their discipline.

While this news may sound remarkably progressive to American ears, our Canadian neighbors have placed far more control in pharmacists’ hands for years. In many provinces and territories, they have authority to not only prescribe the treatments that this new Oregon bill outlines, but they also have the ability to make therapeutic substitutions, prescribe proactively in a collaborative practice, and even diagnose and treat minor ailments and conditions.

Why This Matters—

In the US, many pharmaceutical and device manufacturers market their products directly to prescribers. Traditionally, the majority of sales efforts have focused on physicians, so will the dawn of prescribing for US pharmacists mark a shift in strategy for healthcare marketers? How should brands tailor their messages to a new audience with new rules?

About the Author:

Drew Beck has spent his entire career in healthcare — from direct patient care as an EMT in college to countless roles in pharma sales and global marketing for leading life science companies including Eli Lilly & Co. and GlaxoSmithKline. He is currently a leader on the Syneos Health Insights & Innovation team, a group charged with leveraging deep expertise in virtual collaboration, behavioral science, trends-based-innovation, custom research and global marketing insights.