Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

AMA Adopts Policies on Fair Prescribing, Imaging

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

AMA Adopts Policies on Fair Prescribing, Imaging

Article excerpt

CHICAGO -- A pharmacist's philosophy shouldn't get in the way of prescribing needed drugs to patients. That was one of the conclusions that physicians reached while addressing controversial topics at the annual meeting of the American Medical Association's House of Delegates.

American Pharmaceutical Association (APhA) policy recognizes an individual pharmacist's right to exercise conscientious refusal to fill prescriptions. In committee debate and in full congress, physicians at the House of Delegates meeting expressed concern that pharmacists were exercising this provision to impede access to certain medications, including emergency contraceptives and psychotropic agents.

"What happens between the doctor and the patient is between doctor and patient," Mary Frank, M.D., president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, told this newspaper. "What they decide has to have priority over the pharmacist's objections."

Although the delegates didn't outwardly oppose the use of conscience clauses, they did call for legislation that would require individual pharmacists or pharmacy chains to either fill legally valid prescriptions or refer patients to an alternative dispensing pharmacy.

AMA Trustee Peter W. Carmel, M.D., promised that the AMA would work with the pharmacists' associations and state legislators "so that neither patients' health nor the patient-physician relationship is harmed by pharmacists' refusal to fill prescribed medications."

The House also agreed that the AMA should lobby for state legislation that would allow physicians to dispense medication to their own patients if no pharmacist within a 30-mile radius is able and willing to dispense the medication. The APhA did not respond to requests for comment from this newspaper.

In other business, delegates addressed the challenges physicians face in balancing the increasing value of imaging tests with payers' efforts to restrict reimbursement. Several resolutions were approved that directed the AMA to oppose any attempts to restrict such reimbursement based on physician specialty.

Some payers propose to reimburse only radiologists for imaging, a practice that other specialists believe is unfair, Bruce Scott, M.D., an otolaryngologist, told this newspaper.

"The ob.gyns. are going to want to bill for ultrasound, and the cardiologists want to bill for their interpretation of slides," he said, adding that the bottom line is physicians should have the right to bill for a service they provide and are qualified to perform.

Balance billing was another topic addressed and measures were approved asking that the AMA prepare legislation that would allow physicians to balance bill regardless of the payer. In the wake of pay-for-performance initiatives, "which are nothing but third party managers taking over," balance billing would place patients back in control, enabling them to negotiate their own bills with their individual physicians, Jay Gregory, M. …

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