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Bill would expand pharmacy services

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    U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Lakeville, is shown at left with Ritzman Pharmacy CEO Eric Graf at the Buehler's Fresh Foods store in Montville Township on Wednesday

    BOB FINNAN / GAZETTE

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MONTVILLE TWP. — Pharmacists are playing a bigger role in health care.

U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Lakeville, visited the Buehler’s Fresh Foods store Wednesday to promote House Resolution 592, which he co-sponsored.

The bill, called the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act, would change regulations for pharmacists. It would allow pharmacists who are permitted under their state laws to perform routine and preventive services such as immunizations, blood pressure screenings and smoking cessation programs and to be reimbursed by Medicare, which now is prohibited.

According to the bill, the goal is to increase access to more routine care in areas with doctor shortages or long wait lists for doctors who accept Medicare and help ease the strain of long-term chronic health problems.

Eric Graf, chief executive officer of Ritzman Pharmacy, met Gibbs at the pharmacy inside Buehler’s. He said many of his pharmacists are practicing medication therapy management, or MTM.

“This bill making them a practitioner would further their ability to fill that,” he said.

He said when patients come to Ritzman Pharmacy, their drug information can be checked and “all those safety parameters.”

“When we get down to medication therapy management, then we’re doing a more thorough review of all your meds,” Graf said. “We’re sitting down with you and talking about it.”

He cited two recent cases where patients interacted with their MTM practitioner and came away better for it.

One person was on Benadryl from a rehabilitation program and was complaining of “always being tired.” The drug causes drowsiness and the patient was taken off it.

The second patient was suffering from diabetes and high-blood pressure. He said after testing at home, if his readings were in a good range, he didn’t take his meds that day. Graf said the patient was told to keep taking his meds, even when his readings were positive.

“You’re dealing with the whole person,” he said. “That’s the purpose of the bill, to enhance that medication therapy management. We’re paid for the cost to dispense a drug, but it doesn’t include a lot of face-to-face time. It’s elevating the pharmacist to provide more opportunities on a broad base to practice health care at that level.”

Graf said visiting with an MTM practitioner could help patients avoid emergency department visits and hospitalization.

“This legislation helps the pharmacist be more in tune with their patients,” Gibbs said. “They make sure they are not taking medication they don’t need. Overall, it does bring down the costs.”

Graf also addressed the opioid crisis in Ohio.

He said pharmacies must report on a daily basis to the Ohio Board of Pharmacy through the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System.

“We’re doing a number of things on that opioids front,” he said. “It’s an Ohio reporting site for all dispensations of narcotic medication and some others that are abused. The pharmacy has access to those records to see if that person is doctor-shopping or pharmacy-shopping.

“We have to make sure we have a decent view of that person before we dispense.”

Medical practitioners and law enforcement have access to the OARRS database.

“You have to keep an understanding of who you are dealing with,” Graf said. “You want to do the best you can to get legitimate drugs to legitimate patients.”

Contact reporter Bob Finnan at (330) 721-4049 or rfinnan@medina-gazette.com.



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