Valerie Gettings, CISSN, 4th Year Naturopathic Medical Student, Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, NMSA president-elect
Over 150 naturopathic doctors and students from across North America traveled to Washington, D.C. to advocate for patients’ rights and access to medication during this year’s D.C. Federal Legislative Initiative (DCFLI).
The American Association of Naturopathic Physician’s DCFLI is a chance for students to practice their naturopathic medicine elevator speeches, learn the yearly Congressional asks, meet thought leaders in the naturopathic profession, and advocate to members of Congress. Coordinated with the Naturopathic Medical Student Association (NMSA), it’s also an important time for naturopathic medical students to learn about advocacy and unite with other students from their state or province before attending Congressional visits as a group.
This year’s asks were patient-centered and healthcare focused. The first ask was about protecting patient access to compounded medications (H.R. 1959). The bill would ‘allow compounding pharmacies to create drugs for in office-use in states that allow it,’ according to the AANP website. The bill states that the FDA should allow natural and herbal supplements for compounding in addition to pharmaceutical drugs. There are currently 300 substances that are under FDA review, with some already being deemed illegal to compound.
Currently, items like turmeric are available at vitamin stores, but if H.R. 1959 does not pass, it would be illegal for compounding pharmacists to make a compounded drug with turmeric, for instance. There are other substances on the list such as aloe and ginger. Access to compounded medications is critical for those with allergies to fillers or coatings of standard pharmaceuticals, or those who need smaller amounts of a medication like children, who cannot handle an adult dose.
The second ask regarded mainstreaming addiction treatment (H.R. 2482). Currently, medical professionals require a special DEA waiver to prescribe buprenorphine to treat opiate addiction. However, even though naturopathic doctors in some states have prescribing rights, they are not eligible to apply for the DEA waiver. This means that if a patient wanted to get off of opiates, the ND would have to send the patient to their MD in order to get buprenorphine. This process could take months instead of the ND being able to prescribe buprenorphine when the patient came to them. Interestingly, when France removed the waiver process and any healthcare provider was able to prescribe the drug, France saw a 79 percent decrease in opiate related deaths, which is significant.
Students and NDs also asked members of Congress to join the Congressional Integrative Health and Wellness Caucus, which provides up-to-date information regarding prevention and health promotion, leading to cost savings and improving health outcomes for all Americans.
During DCFLI, each student is able to have 2-6 meetings with their representatives from each state or states they are interested in practicing in. To see the excitement and passion for healthcare from naturopathic medical students as they pound the pavement on Capitol Hill for a day, is something you must not miss!
See you at the next DCFLI!