Magazine article Drug Topics

Pharms Expand Focus on Women's Health

Magazine article Drug Topics

Pharms Expand Focus on Women's Health

Article excerpt

CHAINS & BUSINESS

As their ever-growing role in healthcare causes pharmacists to concentrate more on medication management and patient consulting, some are specializing in healthcare issues and needs specific to women.

In 2006, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made Plan B, an emergency contraceptive used to prevent pregnancy after intercourse, available over the counter to consumers 18 and older, and in April 2009 a subsequent bill decreased that age to 17. These decisions have spurred some pharmacists to learn more about women's health.

Impetus for an expanded role for pharmacists also stems from the medication therapy management (MTM) mandate in Medicare Part D and from initiatives by employers such as the City of Asheville, North Carolina, and Pitney Bowes; both entities have put pharmacists front and center in successful value-based benefit designs that combine lower drug copayments with pharmacist-directed disease management.

In September 2009, the Pacific Institute for Women's Health and Pharmacy Access Partnership launched the nation's first leadership training program designed to help pharmacists become stronger champions of women's health. Titled Pharmacy Forward, the year-long program invited nine fellows from eight states to learn about hormonal contraception, testing for and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, cervical cancer screening, and youth access to reproductive services.

"Pharmacists are becoming interested in providing and advocating for more direct services to women, but don't feel they have sufficient skills or are empowered enough," said Sharon Cohen Landau, director of Pharmacy Access Partnership.

Kathy Besinque, associate professor of clinical pharmacy, University of Southern California School of Pharmacy in Los Angeles, and a Partnership mentor, believes that emergency contraception has opened the door for pharmacists to become more involved in women's issues, including menopause management, osteoporosis, hormone therapy, and use of contraceptives. Her curriculum includes an elective course on women's health.

"Unfortunately, the media have created the perception that many pharmacists are not interested in involving themselves in women's issues, which is just not true," she said, adding that pharmacists are not always reimbursed for these extra services. …

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