First-year students go to state capital for Advocacy Day 2024

about 4 dozen people on stage, screen behind them says PBM REFORM NOW.

Pharmacy advocates make the case for regulation of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs).

On April 2, 2024, two first-year pharmacy students in the Class of 2026 attended Advocacy Day 2024, hosted by the California Pharmacists Association (CPhA) and the United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC/UHCP).

Alisa Koay, who will be the upcoming policy vice president of the American Pharmacists Association Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP) and CPhA’s UCSF chapter, traveled to Sacramento with Hannah Kim to meet with state representatives as well as pharmacists, fellow pharmacy students, and leaders in the field.

The grassroots event offered insight and information related to legislation affecting the profession of pharmacy.

“Being lifelong advocates for our profession, and members of APhA/CPhA, is so important for pharmacy,” said Dean Kathy Giacomini, PhD, BSPharm. “We are so grateful to our students for participating and leading in advocacy––and also for their optimism.”

Koay and Kim wearing white coats.

First-year pharmacy students Alisa Koay and Hannah Kim advocating for the pharmacy profession.

Koay and Kim learned about several issues under active consideration by the state, specifically SB 966, sponsored by the CPhA. The bill would legislate reining in anticompetitive practices by pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), which are a significant contributor to rising drug costs, and is one of the first bills of its kind.

"PBMs are the only entity that don’t have any type of regulations in the health care industry, and because of this, they have been able to use tactics like spread pricing and patient steering,” said Koay. “This bill will be most helpful to independent pharmacies across California.”

“SB 966 would give patients the opportunity to take charge of their health and choose the care that they receive,” said Kim. “Advocacy Day was a really unifying experience as pharmacists from all different fields came together to advocate for the bill.”

CPhA and UNAC/UHCP partner on many legislative issues supporting and defending pharmacists in an effort to ensure that pharmacists are able to provide care to their patients without corporate interference.

“It was great to hear personal accounts from independent pharmacy owners about how conglomerate PBMs have negatively impacted their communities,” said Koay. “The fight continues as we work to support our pharmacy community.”

“This experience taught me the importance of students personally advocating for the profession of pharmacy because as future pharmacists the decisions made now will affect our scope of practice in the future,” said Kim. “By speaking out, we can help advance the field of pharmacy and play a role in expanding the roles of pharmacists as health care providers.”

About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy aims to solve the most pressing health care problems and strives to ensure that each patient receives the safest, most effective treatments. Our discoveries seed the development of novel therapies, and our researchers consistently lead the nation in NIH funding. The School’s doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree program, with its unique emphasis on scientific thinking, prepares students to be critical thinkers and leaders in their field.