Skip to main content

Lawmakers move to require training for pharmacy techs


WASHINGTON —A bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives would require training and certification for pharmacy technicians to prevent mistakes, such as the one that killed 2-year-old Emily Jerry more than two years ago. Instead of using a pre-packaged solution containing less than 1 percent salt, a technician filled the bag with almost 26 times that level.

U.S. Rep. Steve LaTourette, R-Ohio, proposed “Emily’s Act” or the “Pharmacy Technician Training and Registration Act of 2008” on March 1, the anniversary of the death of Jerry.

The legislation would require that pharmacy technicians be trained, registered and certified across the country. Currently, Ohio is one of about 20 states that does not require technicians to be trained or registered, although the hospitals that employ them can demand, and provide, training.

LaTourette said that since technicians perform many of the same tasks as pharmacists, they should have training. He also noted that Americans “would be a little bit dismayed if they knew that they and their loved ones were having drugs mixed for them by people who don’t have any training requirements.”

His bill would make federal grants available to states that require all technicians—in hospitals, retail stores and other settings—to pass a national training exam administered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board. It also would require reporting of prescription errors to state pharmacy boards and limit the number of technicians supervised by a single pharmacist.

LaTourette said he will seek co-sponsorship from 20 members of Congress with constituents who were injured or died from errors by pharmacy technicians. He said the proposal has the backing of actor Dennis Quaid, whose newborn twins mistakenly were given 1,000 times the usual dosage of a blood thinner in November at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

The bill calls for a supervision ratio of two technicians per pharmacist in a hospital setting and three technicians per pharmacist in any other pharmacy practice. In order to become a technician, the bill requires a high school diploma or GED equivalent, an associate’s disagree in pharmacy technology or completion of a course accredited by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.

LaTourette is not the only politician working on a technician bill. In July, Sen. Tim Grendell introduced a similar bill into the Ohio senate, where it since has languished in committee, but Grendell has stated that he would reintroduce the topic.

Under Grendell’s bill, existing pharmacy technicians would have to pass a certification examination. All technicians would undergo continuing education.

According to representatives of LaTourette, the move to train and certify pharmacy technicians has drawn support and resistance from pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and hospitals. Some pharmacists argued that the increased level of training is vital, while others said it is unnecessary and will discourage people from entering the field. NACDS has said that it supports allowing pharmacy technicians to complete employer-based training programs and evaluations as an alternative to mandatory certification exams.

Grendell said that measure has drawn quiet resistance from pharmacy lobbyists over the proposed pharmacist-to-technician ratios and the prospect of higher salaries for technicians who meet the tougher standards.

A recent survey by the PTCB showed that Americans had strong misperceptions about the required qualifications of technicians. The poll results showed that the majority of Americans believe that all pharmacy technicians are required to be certified.

Forty-five percent of those surveyed incorrectly thought that people without formal training were not allowed to help pharmacists prepare prescriptions, and a majority, 58 percent thought that only licensed pharmacists are involved in dispensing prescriptions.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds