Access to effective and affordable medications is often something we don’t think about until we need them, and when we do need them, it’s often urgent. Unfortunately, many of the pharmacy regulations in Washington State have not kept up with best practices, and in some cases they have been a barrier to care or made care more expensive.
We’ve heard from many of our members about issues they face with outdated rules and difficult implementation policies. Improving pharmacy regulations, improving access to essential medications and supporting innovation are among WSHA’s priorities. During the past two years, we have worked closely with the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) and the Pharmacy Quality Assurance Commission on common goals and priorities to expand access to high-quality and cost-effective pharmacy services across the state.
We are particularly excited about the commission’s new direction under the leadership of Chair Tim Lynch — regional senior director, pharmacy officer at CHI in Tacoma) and Executive Director Steve Saxe (former director of the Office of Community Health Systems at the Department of Health). As of September 2016, the Commission has 15 different efforts underway to help modernize the practice of pharmacy, including:
- Allowing hospitals to transfer essential medications to their clinics, which will help expand access to medications and control costs. This was one of WSHA’s major priorities during the 2015 and 2016 legislative sessions. We are glad that a new law was enacted and that there are new rules to implement the changes.
- Updating technology rules to support the use of medication dispensing machines, which are widely used in hospitals and clinics. As this work concludes, we look forward to the commission turning its attention to other areas related to technology, like tele-pharmacy.
- Exploring new ways to conduct more transparent and efficient pharmacy inspections. While this work has just started, it has the potential to drastically improve how pharmacies, pharmacists and DOH inspectors work together to improve patient care and the practice of pharmacy.
Creating or updating large numbers of rules is time consuming, but these efforts are essential to make care more efficient and expand access to affordable medications. While much work remains, we appreciate the DOH and the commission’s commitment to collaboratively addressing complex issues while upholding their regulatory responsibilities.
WSHA Policy Director, Clinical Issues