The United States is experiencing a shortage of primary care family doctors. That’s why over the last 8-10 years, chiropractic associations in states with severe shortages of primary care physicians have sought to expand the scope of practice for chiropractic physicians. They seek new laws and regulations that would allow chiropractic physicians to prescribe a limited range of medications in order to help their patients in a more comprehensive manner. These include medications that are common to conditions frequently seen by chiropractic physicians, such as anti-inflammatory drugs and drugs that treat ailments such as osteoporosis and arthritis.
By granting them the ability to prescribe select medications, specially trained and licensed DCs can help a significant number of patients who would otherwise be forced to seek simultaneous care from an already overburdened and limited pool of MDs in general practice.
To this end, several individual state chiropractic associations contacted experts at National University of Health Sciences (NUHS) in Lombard, Illinois and asked them to assess what additional training would be required to prepare chiropractic physicians to have a license to prescribe from a limited formulary of drugs. Top NUHS faculty in pharmacology and chiropractic medicine examined and compared curricula from allopathic medical schools in addition to a wide range of medical specialty schools, such as: osteopathic medical schools, schools of podiatry, dentistry, psychology and those training nurse practitioners. Each of these professions has also recently been granted authority to prescribe medications from a limited formulary.
NUHS determined that chiropractic physicians would need 90 hours of pharmacology in addition to the prerequisite physiology and biochemistry courses already required by accredited chiropractic education programs. (The DC program at NUHS already provides students with these 90 hours in pharmacology, but such requirements are not representative of all chiropractic institutions.)
At the same time that it was compiling its review, NUHS also launched an accredited masters of science degree program in advanced clinical practice. In anticipation that an expanded scope of chiropractic care would be part of the future, the MSACP program incorporated the 90 hours of advanced pharmacology coursework as part of its degree requirements as well.
One state, New Mexico, has already passed new regulations allowing chiropractic physicians with the right licensure and training to prescribe drugs from a limited formulary. The New Mexico Chiropractic Association asked NUHS if it would be willing to offer post-graduate coursework in Albuquerque delivering a 90-hour program in pharmacology to chiropractic physicians wanting to practice under the new expanded scope of care.
Teaching the New Mexico program is Dr. Daniel Richardson, Assistant Dean at NUHS, who holds a Ph. D. in Pharmacology and Pharmocognosy from Loyola University, Stritch School of Medicine. “At the end of each module, the physicians must pass an examination. At the conclusion of the course, they must also pass a comprehensive examination given by the state association in order to be eligible to apply for a license and a DEA number.”
The physicians in the New Mexico program also receive training in injectable nutrients and drugs from Dr. Michael Taylor, a chiropractic physician who also holds a diplomate from the American Board of Chiropractic Internists.
More states are thinking about expanding the scope of practice for chiropractic physicians. In fact, several physicians attending the New Mexico program come from other states, in hope that they will be prepared for the future. Because of this growing interest, NUHS is also thinking about offering its MSACP in New Mexico as well , and is strategizing how to deliver similar programs in other states in the future.
“Chiropractic physicians are already licensed as primary care doctors in most states,” says Dr. James Winterstein, president of NUHS. “As health care policy-makers wrestle with the scarcity of general practice physicians, expanding the scope of chiropractic care to qualified chiropractic physicians makes good economic and strategic sense. New Mexico’s citizens will undoubtedly benefit from broadening health care delivery by chiropractic physicians, and we anticipate that more states will see the wisdom in this as well.”