Today, ASHP, along with colleagues from other national pharmacy organizations, met with officials at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to express concerns over recent federal guidance to retail pharmacies on access to reproductive healthcare services.
ASHP reaffirmed our support based on recent professional policy approved by the ASHP House of Delegates for patient access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare services, and the ability of pharmacists to exercise clinical judgment in the provision of those services.
As discussed in our statement last week, the HHS guidance has far-reaching and potentially harmful implications for the pharmacist-patient relationship beyond HHS's intended purpose to maintain access to reproductive healthcare. Although narrowly focused, the guidance includes some language that could lead to conflict with state provider status laws and undermine pharmacists' clinical judgment.
During our meeting, ASHP and our colleagues from the other pharmacy organizations described the roles pharmacists play in ensuring that medication therapy ─ including and beyond reproductive health therapy ─ is optimal, safe, and effective and that this is standard of practice for pharmacists.
Our discussion focused on the potential unintended consequences of this guidance, including the risks to patients of limiting pharmacist autonomy and clinical decision-making.
State-licensed pharmacists play a crucial role in ensuring patient safety. Pharmacists often identify inappropriate medications, incorrect doses, therapeutic duplications, contraindications, potential adverse effects, and suboptimal therapies. These actions require pharmacists to do much more than dispense a prescription as written by a prescriber. Pharmacists must be able to intervene in these situations without fear they might be violating the law.
ASHP specifically called on HHS to clarify its guidance to better reflect the responsibilities and needs of health-system pharmacists and to recognize pharmacists' right of conscience, which aligns with current ASHP professional policy that has been approved by the ASHP House of Delegates.
We look forward to continuing to work with our national pharmacy association colleagues and HHS on this important matter and providing ongoing updates to members on ASHP's advocacy activities.