Pharmacists Could Soon Treat Patients For Various Illnesses Under Bill Heading To Governor's Desk

Mar 13, 2020
Originally published on March 12, 2020 6:32 pm

Pharmacists could soon test, screen, and treat various sicknesses under a proposal making its way to the governor's desk. 

If the proposal becomes law, pharmacists could soon have a lot more responsibilities. That includes testing, screening, and treating patients for the flu, strep throat, and other minor health conditions. Pharmacists could also help manage chronic diseases like diabetes or arthritis. 

"In the effort to expand access, they've created some pretty significant shortcomings," Joe Mazziotta says. He's a physician who works as program director for the Tallahassee Memorial Family Medicine Residence Program.
Pharmacists would only be allowed to provide services under specific requirements. For minor non-chronic health conditions, they would have to follow a written protocol with a supervising physician. Pharmacists would also need to get a certificate that requires additional training, among other qualifications. Mazziotta comments that the additional training for pharmacists under the bill is not enough, especially when helping patients manage chronic health conditions. 
"Medical students go through four years of training and then follow that with a minimum of three years of residency... Even then, most people are not qualified to take care of HIV," Mazziotta says.
Under the proposal, a patient's physician can authorize a pharmacist to provide care. There would be a written agreement between the two. These agreements must include what conditions the pharmacist can help with, as well as when they can order, perform, or evaluate tests, among other things. 
"People will die. Members those are reactions not to the bill before you. But to the bill, the legislature passed some 14-12 years ago. When we considered a revolution to allow pharmacists to give flu shots," Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville) says.
Bean notes that at the time, Florida was among the worst states when it came to getting a flu shot, but says, today, Florida is among the top 10. He used the flu shot example to lend his support to the proposal. 
"If you have kids like mine that inevitably get sick on the Friday night of the start of a three-day weekend, this bill is for you," Rep. Tyler Sirois (R-Merritt Island) says. He's the proposal's house sponsor and hopes the measure will give patients more choices, reduce costs, and expand access to healthcare. 
However, Mazziotta says pharmacists will have to overly rely on tests because they are not trained to make a physical diagnosis, and that these tests fail about 30 to 50 percent of the time:
"That again is taking away all of the value actually doing an exam on the patient to determine okay, somebody has these symptoms, and these physical findings, and I'm matching that up with this test, and I can make a better judgement as to whether this test is a true negative or whether it may be a false negative and therefore I'm going to do additional testing."
The proposal passed the Florida House and Senate is now heading to the Governor's desk.
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