The Legislature is considering a bill that would change the composition of the state’s Board of Pharmacy to increase representation for smaller and larger pharmacies.
The measure would raise from one to three the number of seats reserved for pharmacists representing both small operations and large chain stores. The number of at-large spots, reserved for people with pharmacy licenses, would be reduced from five to one. Two people would continue serving as consumer representatives.
The legislative proposal by Sen. Denise Grimsley to beef up pharmacy representation follows an outcry by some in the pharmaceutical community against a measure that would have increased the number of pharmacy technicians who can be overseen by a pharmacist from three to six.
That proposal proved controversial because many in the industry felt that the Board – not the Legislature – should have the authority to make such a change.
It is exactly what some in the pharmacy community were seeking.
“The board is charged with doing this kind of thing, it has the technical expertise that most legislators do not have,” said Win Adams, governmental affairs director for Freedom HHCS, an Orlando-based pharmacy group.
The Florida Pharmacy Association supports the changes.
“”This is compromise language between the parties that have an interest in this bill,” said Michael Jackson, the association’s CEO.
Larger pharmacies support the increase in technician ratios, which some blame for an increase in accidents that can result in harm to patients. Advocates for the increase contend it would allow pharmacists to spend more time with clients.
According to a 2012 survey by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, 17 states have no restrictions on the number of technicians a pharmacist can oversee. Florida is one of 13 states with a 3-to-1 ratio. Current law says a licensed pharmacist may not supervise more than one technician unless the board gives permission. The maximum is three.
Idaho and Indiana have 6-to-1 ratios.
The Florida Retail Federation is opposed to giving the pharmacy board the power to increase the technician ratio, in part because it has been without an executive director since October, said Melissa Joiner, its director of government affairs.
“Doing this will increase the workload of the board significantly. I’m afraid this will bog down needed changes.”
The Pharmacy board now has the authority to grant a pharmacy’s application to increase its technician ratio.
Under the proposal, with more members from both the community and institutional setting, the panel would ideally have broadened professional knowledge of what a particular pharmacy could handle. The board would be the arbiter of any ratio change, as it is now.
Consumers are caught in the middle. While increasing the ratio of technicians to pharmacists would speed up the process of filling prescriptions, it also raises the chance of medication error, some experts say. The duties of pharmacy technicians include the filling and dispensing of prescriptions as well as handling minor clerical work. Pharmacists are drug experts and their advice is often sought out from other health professionals and patients.
Board chair Jeffrey Mesaros did not return a call seeking comment.
Republished with permission of The Associated Press.