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April 30, 2020

ASHP Continues to Support Members and the Healthcare Community Through the COVID-19 Pandemic

Dear Colleagues,

Paul W. Abramowitz, Pharm.D., Sc.D. (Hon.), FASHP

THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC is changing our country’s healthcare landscape every day. Critical health policy changes are occurring at an unprecedented rate. We continue to engage with state and federal policymakers to ensure that pharmacists’ expertise is fully utilized and that healthcare providers are equipped to safely and effectively respond to the pandemic.

Update on States’ Response Efforts

State governors are issuing executive orders that expand pharmacists’ ability to provide high-quality care to patients during this crisis. For example, Michigan now permits pharmacists within licensed health facilities to contribute to routine health maintenance and manage chronic disease states without physician supervision. This expansion alleviates burdens on primary care providers and expands access to care, especially in rural and underserved communities where pharmacists are the most accessible healthcare professionals.

We are also seeing a positive trend in pharmacists’ ability to manage therapeutic interchange. In Iowa and Kentucky, executive orders grant pharmacists the authority to substitute medications in response to drug shortages.

Point-of-care testing for COVID-19 is critical to the national pandemic response. Some states already permitted pharmacists, under their scope of practice or through collaborative practice agreements, to order and administer these tests. Pennsylvania, which previously allowed pharmacists to order and administer tests, has taken emergency measures to grant pharmacists explicit authority to order and administer COVID-19 tests. States like Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, and, most recently New York, issued executive orders that permit pharmacists to order and administer COVID-19 tests. State-level COVID-19 response is a rapidly changing situation as local healthcare providers respond to patient surges and the demand for testing. Please check with your state’s board of pharmacy for more information about the status of COVID-19 testing in your area. Helpful information on COVID-19 testing can also be found on the National Community Pharmacists Association’s website.

ASHP applauds state governors’ efforts to expand pharmacists’ scope of practice during this state of emergency. However, we are concerned that authorizing the expansion of pharmacists’ services without authorizing payment for those services will limit the delivery of care in some pharmacy practice settings. COVID-19 is already highlighting shortcomings in state Medicaid payment systems and commercial payer policies that prevent qualified pharmacists from fully serving patients. ASHP is working closely with our state affiliates and other organizations to request reimbursement for the new services they are providing under the state of emergency. This advocacy aligns with ASHP’s Pharmacy Readiness for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Recommendations for State Policymakers. The recommendations address shortages of drugs and medical supplies and reimbursement of pharmacists for patient care services and also provide readiness and resilience resources for clinicians.

Pharmacists are Essential Healthcare Personnel

ASHP continues to voice our support for all pharmacists who are working tirelessly across the continuum of care in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yesterday, I sent a letter to the chief executive officer of Novo Nordisk responding to a full-page NovoCare ad that ran last weekend in the Wall Street Journal and other publications. Pharmacists were omitted from a list of individuals, including nurses, doctors, researchers, and other essential workers who were acknowledged for their caring efforts on the front lines of the COVID-19 response.

In the letter, I reinforced that pharmacists are highly skilled, licensed healthcare professionals who play a key role in selecting and optimizing medication therapy for patients. Pharmacists also oversee the entire medication-use process in hospitals and health systems, including the purchasing, distribution, preparation, and administration of pharmaceuticals. I further explained that, as members of interprofessional healthcare teams, pharmacists are providing a broad range of patient care services during the COVID-19 public health emergency, from directly caring for mechanically ventilated patients in critical care settings, to providing point-of-care testing and medication management to patients in community pharmacy settings and beyond.

It is my hope that Novo Nordisk will appropriately recognize pharmacists and the important role they play in future communications.

ASHP’s Response to Disruptions in Residency Training

In last week’s blog, I discussed the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on residency training. As a result of disruptions in routine or elective procedures and reductions in inpatient hospital stays, some hospitals and health systems are facing the difficult situation of furloughing their PGY1 and PGY2 pharmacy residents. These actions can disrupt patient care and make residents ineligible for board certification and professional positions that require postgraduate pharmacy residency training. We believe that educating future generations of pharmacists is more critical than ever, and ASHP has issued a statement opposing the furlough of residents.

As always, ASHP is here to support residents and residency programs. If you need assistance with a furlough situation, please reach out to Janet Silvester, vice president of Accreditation Services, or Stephen Ford, director of Residency Accreditation Services.

ASHP is Here for You and the Entire Healthcare Community

Over the past several weeks, I have been sharing information about new and timely resources that ASHP has developed and made available to optimize medication use and patient outcomes during this public health emergency. The response to these offerings, which is captured in a new ASHP infographic, has been tremendous. We are immensely proud of our staff and volunteers who have been working tirelessly to deliver highly relevant information across multiple channels. Our COVID-19 Resource Center is updated regularly with new content and I hope you continue to find the tools and information produced by ASHP valuable as needs related to the pandemic response evolve.

Thank you for being a member of ASHP and for everything that you do for your patients and our profession.

Sincerely,

Paul

 

April 9, 2020

Important Wins on the Advocacy Front in the Fight Against COVID-19

Dear Colleagues,

Paul W. Abramowitz, Pharm.D., Sc.D. (Hon.), FASHP

AS THE IMPACT OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC CONTINUES TO ESCALATE ACROSS THE COUNTRY, there is increased urgency to ensure that frontline pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and our healthcare partners have the medications and equipment they need to successfully treat their patients. ASHP continues to spearhead multiple advocacy efforts that support your ability to provide the best care possible for those in need.

Mitigating shortages of critical medications like propofol, fentanyl, midazolam, paralytics, and others remains a high priority. We continue to engage with relevant federal agencies to improve access to medications. I am pleased to report that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have taken critical actions in direct response to ASHP’s advocacy efforts.

ASHP, in coordination with the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, the Association for Clinical Oncology, and the American Society of Anesthesiologists, sent a letter last week to the DEA requesting an immediate increase in the annual production quota allocations for Schedule II controlled substances. This would enable manufacturers and 503B outsourcing facilities to increase the supply of opioids critical to the care of COVID-19 patients on ventilators. As a direct result of this collaborative advocacy effort, the DEA announced yesterday that it is taking immediate actions to address this critical issue. These actions include increasing the annual production quota for controlled substances, including fentanyl, morphine, and hydromorphone, that are used for the treatment of mechanically ventilated COVID-19 patients, and increasing the amount of ketamine, diazepam, and other controlled substances that can be imported into the United States.

We also sent a letter to the FDA advocating for regulatory flexibility in compounding drugs in shortage and compounding in hospitals. ASHP’s advocacy efforts, including significant staff engagement on the issue, directly triggered the FDA to clarify existing compounding guidance, including the removal of the one-mile radius requirement for hospitals compounding medications. FDA’s quick action to reduce regulatory hurdles for health systems is an important step to help clarify compounding guidance during this crisis.

ASHP will continue to advocate for additional compounding flexibility, including the expansion of FDA’s drug shortage list to include products ASHP has identified as in shortage. We will also continue to seek 503B outsourcing facility flexibility, particularly for hospital-owned or affiliated 503B operations, to help ensure they can meet hospitals’ medication needs.

Yesterday, we were pleased to see that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) authorized pharmacists to order and administer COVID-19 tests pursuant to the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act. The authorization is responsive to the joint COVID-19 recommendations we created with other national organizations. While this authorization does not address pharmacist reimbursement, we are encouraged to see HHS providing pharmacists with a greater role in supporting the COVID-19 response, and we continue to work on that issue.

We also continue to actively advocate for Congress to recognize pharmacists as providers in the Medicare program to further support the COVID-19 response and beyond. Yesterday, ASHP and 11 other national organizations sent a letter requesting that Congress immediately support legislation that would establish pharmacists as providers in Medicare Part B on an emergency basis to provide COVID-19 and flu testing. This authority is an important step in being able to rapidly expand access to testing across our country to support the national response to this crisis. We also see this as a step toward expanded recognition of pharmacists by payers, including Medicare.

Finally, ASHP is also working with our members and other stakeholders to gain access to medications from the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS). Most recently, we joined with several organizations to request that FEMA immediately release all available quantities of a number of critical drugs from the SNS to the New York and New Jersey Departments of Health to address urgent patient care needs. We are also working to support other state affiliates and members across the country with these important requests.

ASHP and its government relations team will continue to work tirelessly with our collaborating partners to ensure that U.S. regulatory authorities are responding to the current needs of pharmacists and healthcare providers.

While our collective attention is on the needs of frontline practitioners, I wanted to take an opportunity to highlight some positive news about the newest members of our profession. ASHP’s 2020 Residency Match concluded this week, and I want to congratulate the 5,269 future pharmacists who matched with 2,551 PGY1 and PGY2 pharmacy residency programs across the country. This number represents a 46% increase in the number of available positions over the past five years – a remarkable rate of growth. I am pleased that our accredited residency programs have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to training during the pandemic. While managing multiple critical priorities, these programs continued to interview applicants virtually. This undoubtedly will be a unique time during which to begin a residency program regardless of its focus. ASHP is committed to ensuring that these young practitioners and their programs have the needed resources to successfully conduct critically important resident training this year and beyond.

In the same vein, please know that ASHP stands ready to offer you and your healthcare colleagues that same level of steadfast support. In addition to advocating to give you access to critical medications, ASHP continues to update and create new resources and tools that can be found on our COVID-19 Resource Center. We have also opened access to many evidence-based online resources and tools on ashp.org, making them widely available to all pharmacists and the broader healthcare community.

Over the last few weeks, I have heard countless stories from members and others about the challenges they are facing, but I’ve also heard many stories of hope and heroism. I, and David Chen, ASHP assistant vice president for Pharmacy Leadership and Planning, have listened in on calls from pharmacy leaders at major health systems in New York City, the pandemic’s current epicenter. We are incredibly impressed by how these leaders have shared their information and experiences and how they support each other and their frontline staff. This is a tremendous example of how peer-to-peer connection and communication can aid in the pandemic response. Their experiences and willingness to share their stories will undoubtedly help others in responding to COVID-19 in facilities across the country. We applaud them for these efforts.

Please also know that ASHP is here to support your well-being, which should remain a priority for all healthcare personnel during this challenging time. Please make sure that you are taking care of yourself and your family.

“ASHP has our backs.” These are the words of a member who recently reached out to us. This really resonated with me, and I can assure you that we will continue to work across all fronts, leveraging our talented staff, our valued partners, and our amazing members to provide you with the information, connections, and resources you need today and in the future.

Thank you for everything you do for your patients and the profession.

Sincerely,

Paul

February 21, 2020

New Mexico Legislation Expands Access to Pharmacist Care

Dear Colleagues,

Paul W. Abramowitz, Pharm.D., Sc.D. (Hon.), FASHP

A concerted and highly organized effort has resulted in a significant step forward for pharmacists and patients in New Mexico. Pharmaceutical Services Reimbursement Parity (House Bill 42), passed by the New Mexico Senate on February 20, will expand access to healthcare by enabling pharmacist clinicians and other pharmacists with prescriptive authority to be reimbursed for clinical services.

ASHP’s Government Relations team worked closely with the New Mexico Society of Health-System Pharmacists (NMSHP), the New Mexico Pharmacy Association, the UNM College of Pharmacy SSHP, and others to mobilize grassroots support urging Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and members of the New Mexico legislature to pass the bill.

This is a wonderful achievement for pharmacists and their patients in New Mexico. It also serves as a strong building block as we work toward achieving pharmacy provider status nationally. Supporting states in expanding access to pharmacist care is a key part of ASHP’s larger vision that medication use will be optimal, safe, and effective for all people all of the time.

Multiple studies have shown that pharmacist-provided clinical services expand access to care, improve chronic disease outcomes, and help decrease the cost of care with research estimating that every $1 invested in clinical services by pharmacists reduces overall healthcare costs by $4.[1] We are working hard to make sure that policymakers across the country recognize that value and the impact you bring to patient care.

I would like to express my thanks to all of the individuals and organizations that worked so hard to support the passage of the bill, including Keenan Ryan, NMSHP president, Dale Tinker, executive director of the New Mexico Pharmacists Association, and the students at UNM College of Pharmacy who worked to make sure every legislator in New Mexico understood the importance of this legislation.

We have great momentum on this critical issue and look forward to continuing our advocacy efforts on expanding access to pharmacist care in other states to help improve patient health for all.

Thank you for being a member of ASHP and for everything that you do for your patients and our profession.

Sincerely,

Paul

 

[1] Avalere. Exploring Pharmacists’ Role in a Changing Healthcare Environment. May 21, 2014, available at https://avalere.com/insights/exploring-pharmacists-role-in-a-changing-healthcare-environment

 

 

 

June 28, 2019

Advocacy in Action: Utah Pharmacists Make Contraceptive Provision a Reality

David C. Young, Pharm.D.

A NEW LAW THAT WILL CHANGE the way Utah pharmacists work began with a question that was part of a classroom assignment: “If you had one wish for a pharmacy dream bill, what would it be?” At the time, Wilson D. Pace, Pharm.D., was a University of Utah College of Pharmacy graduate student in the school’s leadership and advocacy class taught by David C. Young, Pharm.D. He immediately thought of the need for broader access to contraception and how pharmacists can fill that gap.

This issue hit home for Dr. Pace because his wife had experienced problems obtaining a prescription for a contraceptive from an obstetrician since a shortage of providers made her wait several months to get an appointment. As he further looked into the challenges women face getting contraception in a timely manner, he found that his wife’s experience was far from unique. As a result, Dr. Pace came to the conclusion that if there were a law that gave pharmacists the power to provide contraception without a new prescription, it would go a long way toward advancing women’s health in the state. This idea moved Dr. Pace to seek out other student pharmacists to form a working group. Together they started an advocacy campaign that would make this dream bill a reality.

Garnering Support from Medical Stakeholders

Wilson D. Pace, Pharm.D.

Dr. Pace and his working group began by reaching out to pharmacist mentors about their desire to take action on this idea in the hopes that the legislature would act on it. The pharmacists discussed how the advocacy process would work, and based on his prior experience, Dr. Young knew they first had to gain the support of various stakeholders in the state. Although groups such as Utah Board of Pharmacy, professional pharmacy organizations, the Utah Medical Association, and nursing organizations agreed that it was essential to address the issues women face while trying to obtain contraceptives, they had yet to agree on the exact role pharmacists should play in solving them. Specifically, whether or not pharmacists should be able to provide contraceptives without a prescription from a doctor.

As a result, Dr. Pace’s original vision of pharmacists having prescribing power was a point of contention during the discussions and ultimately something on which Drs. Pace and Young needed to compromise to get the groups’ support and move forward. In the end, the stakeholders all decided it was best for pharmacists not to have full prescribing power, but to be able to provide contraception without a prescription on a limited basis.

“We didn’t sit around the fire singing ‘Kumbaya,’” said Dr. Young. “We had very healthy, open, and honest discussions about what the idea for a new law meant, how we were going to accomplish it, and how we were going to work together.”

Hammering Out the Details

After completing discussions with all of the healthcare stakeholders and getting their support, it was time to work with the legislative research office to refine the language of the bill. This was a complicated and lengthy process because it required that every interested group sign off on each revision that was made to the draft.

“Any tiny change had to have buy-in from all of the different groups,” Dr. Pace said. “So the next big step was working out all the nuts and bolts and then coordinating to make sure everybody was on the same page.”

Legislative Support

Karen M. Gunning, Pharm.D., BCPS

Once the language of the bill was finalized, it was time to get legislative support. Finding the right sponsor was vital. Sen. Todd Weiler agreed to sponsor the bill, and Rep. Ray Ward, M.D., a family physician with a history of working on legislation related to improving public health, co-sponsored the bill. “We actually had no opposition. We were concerned that there might be different groups testifying against us or they would push back, but there was none of that,” said Dr. Pace.

The process went so smoothly that there were no opposing testimony delivered when the bill was in committee and no opposing votes in the Utah Legislature. In March, Gov. Gary Herbert signed S.B. 184.

Thanks to the efforts of Dr. Pace, the other student pharmacists involved, and guidance from their mentors, women in Utah can now get contraception from pharmacists for two years before being required to check in with a doctor for a new prescription.

“I believe this law will allow pharmacists in the state of Utah to demonstrate the value they bring to patient care, and also the team-based approach to care that pharmacists have,” said Karen M. Gunning, Pharm.D., BCPS, a Professor (Clinical) at the University of Utah College of Pharmacy, who provided expert knowledge and support to Drs. Pace and Young as they navigated the legislative process. “There is great potential for pharmacists to work with medical providers in their communities to improve access, and to ensure that patients who need contraceptive care from a non-pharmacist medical provider are referred promptly to one.”

A Future of Advocacy

With this significant advocacy win under his belt, Dr. Pace admits that he’s been bitten by the political bug and will continue working toward furthering the interests of the pharmacy profession. Drs. Pace and Young, now co-chairs in the legislative committee of the Utah ASHP state affiliate, have already begun exploring new issues to tackle in the current legislative session.

“Whatever job I end up being in, I can’t imagine not being involved in some way in the advocacy process,” Dr. Pace said.

Although at first blush many pharmacists may shy away from doing advocacy work, Dr. Young urges all pharmacy professionals to consider getting involved because of the tremendous impact it can have on the way they work in their state.

“If you’re not interested in advocating for your profession, other people may change the laws and rules on you, and you may not like it,” he said. “If you want to control your outcomes, you’ve got to get involved. The best way to control your destiny is to create it — and that’s what happened with this bill.”

 

By Kenya McCullum

 

May 20, 2019

ASHP is Committed to Ensuring that all Medications are Accessible, Safe, and Effective

Dear Colleagues,

Paul W. Abramowitz, Pharm.D., Sc.D. (Hon.), FASHP

Many of you may have seen recent stories in the media questioning the accessibility and safety of generic drugs, including those manufactured overseas. These stories, and others like them, could lead to fear and confusion among patients, potentially leading to adherence issues and poor health outcomes. As the medication safety experts on the front lines with patients, it is critical that our members know that ASHP is committed to working with you, our partners in government, and other key stakeholders to help ensure that medications are accessible, safe, and effective, regardless of origin.

We have been in recent contact with FDA leaders to ensure that they fully appreciate the concerns that ASHP and our 50,000 members have regarding the absolute need for quality generic medications, and the need for the entire pharmaceutical industry to adhere to standards of quality. ASHP will continue to meet with FDA, Congress, industry leaders, and other stakeholders to help assure the public that the medications they take are safe and effective, and will strongly advocate for any changes that may need to be made to law or regulation to support that goal.

On Friday, the FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs issued a statement that reaffirms their commitment to safety and quality and outlines their risk-based approach to global inspections.

The safety and efficacy of medications is central to ASHP’s patient care and public health mission and we have championed these issues in our ongoing work in a number of areas, including sterile compounding and drug shortages. We enjoy a close partnership with officials at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and, as a longtime leader and Board member in the Alliance for a Stronger FDA, have been a vocal advocate for sufficient federal appropriations to the agency so that it has the resources necessary to ensure the safety and effectiveness of medical and other FDA-regulated products.

We will continue to be in close contact with the FDA and will keep you informed on steps they are taking to ensure the quality and safety of generic medications in light of recent stories in the media.

ASHP has also long been at the forefront of efforts to address escalating drug prices, including generic medications, and their impact on pharmacy practice and patient outcomes.

ASHP is a lead member of the Steering Committee for the Campaign for Sustainable Drug Pricing (CSRxP) and is actively involved in other collaborative efforts to identify bipartisan solutions to address skyrocketing drug prices and provide more affordable choices for patients. ASHP strongly supports the need for reforms to address the underlying causes of high drug prices, including increased transparency, competition, and value.

In addition to our work with CSRxP, ASHP is actively engaging Congress on critical issues related to access and affordability of medications. ASHP has submitted 11 statements related to drug pricing to congressional Committees over the past year, and in just this month alone, ASHP representatives have met with two dozen congressional offices, representing the voices of our members on the tremendous impact of escalating drug prices.

Late last week the House of Representatives passed legislation to reduce the cost of generic drugs, by prohibiting brand manufacturers from taking steps to keep generic products from the marketplace, including barring pay for delay tactics, allowing generic manufacturers access to samples of branded products, and removing regulatory barriers to the launch of multiple versions of a generic product.

ASHP is supportive of the drug pricing provisions included in H.R. 987 as they represent important steps to promote competition and ensure that generic drugs reach patients sooner. In the weeks and months ahead, we will take this message to the U.S. Senate and advocate for drug pricing legislation.

We will continue to advocate for policies and regulatory solutions that support safe, effective, and accessible medications for our patients, and will provide updates on new activities, initiatives, and outcomes from our efforts as available. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact ASHP’s Government Relations team. Further, we will plan to keep you updated on this issue and others as new developments arise.  Thank you for being a member of ASHP, and for everything you do for your patients.

Sincerely,

Paul

 

March 8, 2019

North Dakota Technician Champions National Certification

This article is part of a series featuring ASHP’s pharmacy technician members and their valuable contributions to the profession. Check out ASHP’s Pharmacy Technician Forum for more information about efforts to advance the pharmacy technician workforce, as well as ways for pharmacy technicians to become more involved in ASHP.

 

Diane Halvorson, CPh.T.

AS A YOUNG ADULT, Diane Halvorson, CPh.T., never intended to become a pharmacy technician. But now, more than 25 years later, she has a gratifying career and is an influential figure in the field. As Lead Pharmacy Technician at Vibra Hospital Pharmacy in Fargo, N.D., Halvorson is a staunch advocate for improving technician certification and education programs.

Successful Technician
Halvorson began working at a hospital pharmacy more than two decades ago. As a single mother, she needed to find a way to support her son. Halvorson was lucky enough to learn the pharmacy technician trade on the job. She didn’t have any experience, but back then the job of a pharmacy technician was “very basic,” she said. She mostly managed the prescription medication stock.

Over time, her boss (the pharmacy director) took notice of her attention to detail and ability to manage her time and work efficiently. “As pharmacy evolved, I evolved along with it,” she said. “I became a sponge and started attending conventions, conferences, and any continuing education I could to expand my knowledge. The support of my peers and leaders gave me the confidence to excel.” When she began serving on the North Dakota Board of Pharmacy in 2011, she realized it was time to become certified.

“I have taken every opportunity to gain the knowledge and understanding of pharmacy and have evolved into the person I am today,” she said

National Standards for Techs
As a member of ASHP and other national and state pharmacy organizations, Halvorson was appointed by the governor of North Dakota to serve a second term on the North Dakota State Board of Pharmacy, with a goal of implementing education and certification programs in the state. The position has provided a forum to speak out about the need for standardizing pharmacy technician training across the nation.

Currently, there is no standard training or certification on a national level to become a pharmacy technician. Education and certification requirements to earn a CPh.T. degree vary by state. Some states may require more training than others, additional exams, or recertification.

But standardization in the profession is needed now more than ever. Pharmacists are now working in more clinical roles, but prescriptions still need to be filled. “Pharmacy technicians should have the credentials and knowledge to fulfill this role safely and accurately,” said Halvorson.

Expanding Tech Education
Halvorson and many of her colleagues would like to see pharmacy technicians undergo the same rigors of training that pharmacists face. “I feel we should have a national standard that establishes a way to ensure all pharmacy technicians have a baseline knowledge when entering the profession,” said Halvorson. “While our education would not be as detailed as the pharmacist, our process should mirror the process of the pharmacist.” The process would include the completion of an exam that verifies the baseline knowledge, she added.

Halvorson is an advocate for improving technician certification and education programs.

Some of the strictest requirements in her field exist in her home state of North Dakota, where pharmacy technicians are required to receive their education from an ASHP/ACPE accredited program. They must take a national certification exam to demonstrate their knowledge of the field, and they may only earn their certification in the state after meeting those requirements.

Hospital pharmacies in North Dakota are also required to have a quality assurance program to track prescription errors. “If you have a near-miss or a mistake that reaches the patient, you need to document it,” said Halvorson. “Was this an isolated incident? Was there a product problem or process problem or personnel problem?”

Technician Advocacy
Donna Kisse, CPh.T., is a pharmacy technician who has gotten to know Halvorson through their service together in North Dakota’s Northland Association for Pharmacy Technicians. Kisse and other colleagues admire Halvorson for the advocacy work she’s taken on toward a goal of consistent, national certification requirements for pharmacy technicians.

“Since pharmacists are taking the lead in clinical patient care roles, pharmacy technicians must be leaders in supporting standardized qualifications to ensure pharmacies are safe, efficient, and have productive work environments,” said Kisse.

Halvorson became involved with ASHP through the Pharmacy Technicians Stakeholders Consensus Conference steering and advisory committee. “For me, being a member of ASHP has elevated my overall knowledge and fundamental understanding of the opportunities of expansion of the scope of practice that a pharmacy technician can achieve,” she said.

The ASHP Pharmacy Technician Forum, which launched last year, has also been integral to her efforts. She currently serves on the forum’s Patient Care Quality Advisory Group committee.

Halvorson began her technician career more than two decades ago and currently serves as the Lead Pharmacy Technician at Vibra Hospital Pharmacy.

Reducing Prescription Errors
Halvorson hopes that all states will move toward following strict training guidelines like those in North Dakota. By not standardizing pharmacy technician training, Halvorson said the profession is putting the safety of patients in jeopardy. “The consumer believes that any person behind the pharmacy counter has education, that those people know what they’re doing, and that they have a minimum education.”

She recalled an incident that made headlines years ago. It involved Emily Jerry, a three-year-old girl in Ohio who died in 2006 as a result of a hospital pharmacy technician error. At the time of the toddler’s death, Ohio didn’t register pharmacy technicians or require any training or licensing to do the job. In 2009, Emily’s Act was signed into law. The legislation requires that pharmacy technicians be at least 18 years of age, register with the State Board of Pharmacy, and pass a Board-approved competency exam. It also includes requirements related to technician training.

“Humans make errors, and that’s why in a pharmacy you have a check and balance,” Halvorson said. That safety net wouldn’t exist without Halvorson and other passionate pharmacy technicians.

By Jessica Firger

 

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