URI Pharmacy students, faculty members promote profession, health initiatives at Statehouse

College representatives join Pharmacist’s Association for Face of Pharmacy Day

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Rhode Island State House for Face of Pharmacy Day
Dozens of University of Rhode Island pharmacy students and faculty members joined Dean Paul Larrat at the Rhode Island State House for Face of Pharmacy Day, promoting the profession and advocating for pharmaceutical issues. Photo by Patrick Luce

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — April 18, 2019 — Dozens of University of Rhode Island Pharmacy students joined several faculty members and Dean Paul Larrat in bringing attention to the services pharmacists provide and lobbying for initiatives important to the industry during the 16th annual Face of Pharmacy Day at the Rhode Island State House earlier this month.

Established by the Rhode Island Pharmacist’s Association, the Face of Pharmacy Day gives pharmacists and pharmacy teachers and students the chance to promote their profession to state leaders and discuss with legislators various pharmaceutical issues. Students lined the hallways of the State House to present their research projects to legislators and passers-by, and some joined faculty members in a speaking program to promote two issues important to many pharmacists and other health care workers: smoking cessation and birth control.

Pharmacy student Erin Connolly
Pharmacy student Erin Connolly addresses legislators and attendees of Face of Pharmacy Day at the Rhode Island State House, promoting bills that would allow pharmacists to prescribe and dispense tobacco cessation drugs and products. Photo by Patrick Luce

The College is supporting House bill 5558 and Senate bill 0306, which would allow pharmacists to prescribe and dispense tobacco cessation drugs and products. Pharmacists would be able to prescribe FDA-approved prescription medications (varenicline, bupropion), as well as nicotine replacement therapies like nicotine gum or the patch. The ability for pharmacists to prescribe the medications (from which they are currently barred in Rhode Island) is particularly important. Patients who took varenicline — commonly known as Chantix — were about 1.5 times as likely to achieve abstinence from smoking two to five months after quitting than those who used nicotine replacement therapies.

“Quitting smoking is often a spontaneous decision, and pharmacists are accessible health care professionals who can initiate therapy more quickly than a doctor, without an appointment,” said URI pharmacy Professor Anita Jacobson, one of the organizers of URI’s involvement at the Statehouse. “In addition to medication, pharmacists could prescribe other tobacco cessation products, which would allow them to be covered by insurance.”

The College representatives are also encouraging legislators to allow pharmacists to prescribe hormonal contraceptives, in the form of a

URI College of Pharmacy Dean Paul Larrat
URI College of Pharmacy Dean Paul Larrat speaks at Face of Pharmacy Day, promoting pharmaceutical bills related to hormonal contraceptives and smoking cessation. Photo by Patrick Luce

patch or birth control pills (House bill 5549). Currently, Rhode Island law does not allow pharmacists to prescribe medication, but other states, including California, New Mexico, Maryland, Hawaii, Oregon and Colorado allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control, which increases accessibility to consumers without threatening their health.

“We chose these because none of these drugs require a physical exam or blood work, so patients don’t necessarily need to see a doctor,” Jacobson said.

Jacobson was joined by Professor Nicole Asal, Dean Larrat and URI pharmacy students Erin Connolly and Elena Beauregard in speaking to legislators and attendees in support of the measures.