Ohio seeking tougher standards for training, certification of pharmacy techs

12/18/2008

COLUMBUS, Ohio Ohio this week came close to joining a long and still-growing list of states requiring that pharmacy technicians pass qualification requirements to meet minimum safety standards.

The Buckeye State’s legislature passed a bill to establish minimum practice and capability standards for pharmacy techs, and is awaiting the signature of Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland for the bill to become law. Among other things, the legislation stipulates that pharmacy techs must be educated to the level of high school graduate and pass background and proficiency tests to be certified to work behind the counter.

If the bill becomes law, as expected, Ohio would join a roster of roughly 40 states that have adopted regulations governing pharmacy technicians, according to the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board and the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. The most recent was Florida, which in mid-2007 enacted a law requiring pharmacy techs to register and, beginning in 2011, to gain certification through either a lengthy training program under a licensed pharmacist, or through an examination process sponsored by either the state board of pharmacy or a nationally accredited certification program.

The growing pharmacy tech certification trend was spurred in large part by the death in 2006 of two-year-old Emily Jerry at the Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland. Her death, following a prescription error with saline solution by a pharmacy technician, prompted an acceleration in the training and certification of pharmacy techs and also spurred movement in Congress for a federal law governing techs.

That bill, introduced in the House last year by Ohio Republican Rep. Steve LaTourette and dubbed “Emily’s Act,” would require that pharmacy technicians be trained, registered and certified across the country.

American consumers, for their part, appear strongly in favor of certification and training for pharmacy techs. A survey from the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board showed that most consumers already mistakenly believe such standards are in place on a national level.

“American consumers—in fact, 91 percent of those surveyed—support strong regulations across the country to protect patient safety by requiring that pharmacy technicians be trained and certified,” said Melissa Murer Corrigan, the PTCB’s executive director and chief executive.

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