Since 2013, when pharmacists were first classified as healthcare providers by statute,¹ pharmacist advocates have worked to expand their scope of authority in various areas.
Amongst multiple bills sponsored by the California Pharmacists Association (CPhA) this legislative cycle, one intends to allow pharmacists to provide more direct patient treatment following certain positive test results in efforts to improve care in areas with healthcare provider shortages. Although pharmacists are currently authorized to perform testing for several healthcare conditions, they are not authorized to prescribe treatment for many of them.
Senate Bill 524 by Senator Anna Caballero, a Democrat representing the central valley counties of Fresno, Madera, Merced, and Tulare, was introduced after a 106-bed Madera Community Hospital and its three clinics shut down completely in early January. “It’s a disaster. This is a facility that people depend on. This is a loss of services that is going to be really felt in many of our small communities,” she stated.²
SB 524 would change the scope of a pharmacist's services and expand the authority that pharmacists have to provide such services.
The legislation would implement the following changes:
■ A pharmacist would have the ability and authority to order, perform, and report certain tests approved and authorized by the FDA and waived by the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA).
■ Specifically, until January 1, 2034, a pharmacist would have the authority to furnish prescription medications pursuant to the results from tests used to guide diagnosis or clinical decision-making for SARS-CoV-2, Influenza, Streptococcal pharyngitis, or conjunctivitis.
■ In providing these services, a pharmcist would be required to utilize specified evidence-based clinical guidelines, or other clinically recognized recommendations, in accordance with standardized procedures or protocol designed and approved by the board and the Medical Board of California.
■ A pharmacist would be required to document, to the extent possible, the testing services provided, as well as the prescription drugs, devices, or other treatments furnished to the patient pursuant to the test result, in the patient’s record.
■ A pharmacy or health care facility in which a pharmacist is furnishing treatment would be required to provide an area designed to maintain privacy and confidentiality of the patient. Because a violation of these requirements would be a crime, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
The legislation has registered support from small, mostly rural, cities. CMA, the California Chapter of the American College of Cardiology, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, District X, have all registered their opposition to the bill. The bill is on track for passage out of the Senate and onto the Assembly for its own committee hearing and voting process throughout August. The legislation has garnered bi-partisan support, so it may pass and arrive at the governor’s desk in mid-September. If signed, the legislation would remain in effect through at least January 1, 2034 without earlier intervention.
To learn more about SB 524, please visit www.CAPphysicians.com/SB524.
Gabriela Villanueva is CAP’s Government and External Affairs Analyst. Questions or comments related to this article should be directed to GVillanueva@CAPphysicians.com.
¹SB 493, Chaptered in 2013