Medical marijuana: A new business model for pharmacists
The pharmacist’s role
As public acceptance of medical marijuana grows, pharmacists are considering what role they might play in the emerging industry. Last month a Drug Topics survey of 715 pharmacists found that 48% of respondents were in favor of pharmacist oversight of state-approved medical marijuana dispensaries.
Not everyone agreed, however; 28% of respondents said they didn't believe pharmacists should be dispensing such medication until the FDA reschedules cannabis as a Schedule II Controlled Substance. An additional 18% said they didn't believe pharmacists should be dispensing cannabis because additional research is needed.
But several states require that a pharmacist be involved in the process. For instance, in Connecticut, in order to obtain proper licensure, dispensaries must be run by pharmacists; in Minnesota, state laws dictate that marijuana be distributed to qualified patients only by pharmacists working with manufacturers registered with the state.
Pharmacists already working in the industry say that as a group, pharmacists have a distinct skill set that makes them uniquely qualified to practice in medical marijuana dispensaries.
"We've got the basic skills; we've got the necessary training and education,'" said Joseph Friedman, RPh, MBA, chief operations officer at PDI Medical LLC in Illinois. "We've got practical experience in patient care, dealing with difficult suppliers, all of that. We've got a patient-focused mindset, and that's very important."
Throughout the country, pharmacists are on the cutting edge of this new approach to patient care, and many are opening the doors of their own medical marijuana dispensaries. As one pharmacist put it, practitioners in these new dispensaries can be likened to modern apothecaries; they are able to tailor the therapy to the needs of each patient, using the best product, administration route, and dosage for each.
But the road to this alternative practice environment differs for each pharmacist, depending on individual state rules and regulations.
Connecticut authorized the establishment of six dispensary facilities across the state. The first opened in August 2014.
A pool of 27 applicants vied for the licenses before six pharmacists were chosen. Bradley thinks the biggest deciding factor for the state was the pharmacist's own background and the proposed location of the dispensary.
"I think it was that simple," she said. "I was an established pharmacist that they could trust, in the state of Connecticut, and my location was key."