Enhancing pharmacists' prescribing power boosts access to PrEP: GoodRx study

Giving pharmacists greater authority to prescribe preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) drugs significantly increased use of these therapies, new data from GoodRx show.

The research, provided exclusively to Fierce Healthcare, found that fills for PrEP increased by 24% in one year in states that passed pharmacist prescriber policies for these drugs. Fills grew 110% after two years, the study found.

By comparison, PrEP fills remained largely flat in states that did not expand phamacists' prescribing power, the study gound. The findings suggest pharmacists could play a key role in helping people who live in underserved or underresourced areas access critical preventive drugs like PrEP.

"This jump in fills suggests that pharmacists could play a major role in getting medications to patients who need them—especially those who live in areas that lack healthcare services," the GoodRx researchers wrote.

Patients see their pharmacists more often than they see their primary care provider, with previous research suggesting it can be nearly 12 times more often, the GoodRx report noted. However, the scope of their prescribing power can vary between states, with some allowing pharmacists to prescribe a range of medications and others limiting their authority to drugs like birth control, naloxone and HIV therapies.

The report found that 20% of U.S counties could stand to benefit if pharmacists' prescribing power were expanded in their state, and that includes 37 million people, GoodRx said.

In many counties where access to primary care or health clinics is a challenge, patients do have adequate access to a pharmacist, which could offer a crucial lifeline for them to access necessary medications, according to the study. For PrEP specifically, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that just 25% of people who are eligible for these drugs are prescribed them.

Other examples of pharmacists' putting enhanced prescribing power to work include areas where they can prescribe Paxlovid, a COVID-19 treatment, to patients, according to the report.

"State policymakers will determine how and if pharmacists will play a role in increasing access to important medications," the researchers wrote. "But moving forward it's clear that expanded pharmacist prescriber authority, especially in underserved areas, should be a priority."