It was never in the plan for Jessica Farrell, PharmD, to enter rheumatology. In fact, when she applied for one of two pharmacist positions at Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in 2008, she made it clear she was only interested in the family practice position.
“I was offered an interview for the family medicine position, and when they said they had a rheumatology position, too, I said, ‘No, thanks!’” says Dr. Farrell. “I had very little background in rheumatology.” Then the family medicine position fell through and when they offered rheumatology again, she decided to give it a try.
Dr. Farrell, a clinical pharmacist, was one of the few working in the field at the time; rheumatology was not being offered as a specialty in pharmacy residency programs. Today, she routinely brings pharmacy students and residents in for rotations at her practice, The Center for Rheumatology, and she’s done much to represent the best-
possible partnership between pharmacists and rheumatology practice.
Getting to Know Rheumatology
“When I started at The Center for Rheumatology at the end of 2008, since I had very little training in rheumatology, I needed to learn a lot on my own,” she says.
For Dr. Farrell, now an associate professor of pharmacy practice at Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, that involved getting to know how each provider in the practice approached patient care so she could make appropriate recommendations. “I also needed them to get to know me and my abilities, to be able to see how I can help and develop a rapport with them so they knew they could trust my recommendations,” she says.
She accomplished this by providing ample evidence-based documentation, combing the primary literature to ensure her recommendations were well researched and up to date. She created template letters providers can easily customize for insurance prior authorization, particularly for off-label use and when treating rare rheumatic diseases. Some of Dr. Farrell’s letters are also available to ACR members.
“When we first started doing these, it cut down the time from months to get approval of a drug to within a few weeks,” she says, referring to an informal survey she conducted among the practice’s providers and administrative staff.
Dr. Farrell, who is the only pharmacist member of the Scleroderma Foundation’s National Medical and Scientific Advisory Board, also recently helped get the immunosuppressive drug, mycophenolic acid, added to Medicare’s compendia for off-label treatment of scleroderma.1