Alton, IL

State To Monitor Pharmacies

Story by WBGZ Radio

Gov. Bruce Rauner's office is cracking down on pharmacies that don't warn customers of harmful drug mixes.

A Chicago Tribune investigation found more than half of the 255 pharmacies that were visited filled a combination of prescriptions that would have led to dangerous side effects without warning the customer.

Independent pharmacies failed to warn of the adverse effects 72 percent of the time. Walgreen's had the fewest incidents of missing the warnings -- but still missed one in three.

In response, Rauner announced that the state will begin taking steps to increase the accountability and safety of pharmacies. Proposed changes include more thorough counseling for new and refilled prescriptions, signage of that new requirement and more severe penalties for non-compliance.

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“The Tribune investigation revealed deficiencies in the state’s current pharmacy system that put patients at risk,” he said. “We tasked our state’s regulator to examine our statutes and rules to determine what could be done. These actions today represent additional safeguards that can be implemented quickly to hold pharmacists accountable in their duty to consult patients on potential drug interactions."

Currently, state law only requires a brief offer of counseling.

University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy Dean Jerry Bauman was embarrassed about the results of the Tribune investigation, but not surprised. While there is no excuse for pharmacists missing those potential adverse effects, he said the automated warnings of reactions are so numerous it becomes an issue.

"There are many, many drug interactions: some are significant, some are rare, some are not significant," he said. "What happens is, you get a lot of these prompts and after so many there's a certain degree of prompt fatigue. I'm not justifying it. Just understanding of how these things can happen."

Bauman added that chain pharmacies often rate their counters by how fast they can fill prescriptions, incentivizing speed over service.

"There are metrics by which the pharmacist is judged -- how many prescriptions per time period they fill, for example," he said. "This, in my opinion, is despicable. They're not hamburgers. They're drugs."

University of Arizona College of Pharmacy Professor Daniel Malone assisted in the Tribune investigation. He was "not really surprised by the results," he said.

Malone echoed Bauman's thoughts, lamenting the payment structure of pharmacists being solely based on product, not service given.

"Hopefully, (the investigation) leads to the improvement in the practice of pharmacy, which is necessary based on the results of the study," he said.

The rule changes are subject to a comment period. Some changes will require lawmaker approval.

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