by Mary Helen Yarborough
Pharmacy technicians working in South Carolina retail and hospital
pharmacies would be required to obtain state and national certification
under a measure currently being considered by the state legislature.
In the interest of enhanced patient safety, House Bill 3394 would amend
state law to increase requirements for pharmacy technicians.
Right now, pharmacy technicians must register with the state, but additional training and board certification is voluntary.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Kit Spires (R-Dist. 96) and co-sponsored by
21 bipartisan legislators, has been advocated for by the S.C. Society
of Health-System Pharmacists (SCSHP).
Currently under consideration by the House Committee on Medical,
Military, Public and Municipal Affairs, the bill would require that
certified pharmacy technicians work 1,000 hours under the supervision
of a licensed pharmacist as a technician, and complete an American
Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP)-accredited technician
program, or a Board of Pharmacy (BOP)-approved technician course. They
also would have to pass a national certification exam such as the
Pharmacy Technician Certification Board exam or other BOP-approved exam
and maintain certification.
Under the proposed legislation change, pharmacy technicians would need
at least a high school diploma or equivalent, and be at least 17
years of age.
Growing field, greater pressure
The field of pharmacy technicians is growing. As of Sept. 28, 2008,
4,320 technicians were registered with BOP. Of those registered,
55 percent were state certified, according to SCSHP.
To address the growing need, S.C. Technical College System developed a
certificate program for training and educating pharmacy technicians
applicable in all 16 technical colleges in the state to supply
state certified technicians to all of South Carolina.
During a tour of three MUSC medical center pharmacies for Rep. Wendell
Gilliard (D-Dist. 111), Health System Pharmacy Administration resident
Michael DeCoske, PharmD, introduced the Charleston representative to
specialized tasks performed by pharmacy technicians.
“We introduced Rep. Gilliard to pharmacy technicians working in
Rutledge Tower Pharmacy, the Hollings Cancer Center Pharmacy and the
University Inpatient Pharmacy,” DeCoske said. “Specifically, we
highlighted the technician’s role in preparing high-alert medications
such as chemotherapy in the Hollings Cancer Center Pharmacy.”
DeCoske said that with increased prescription orders, “Our pharmacists
across the state and specifically at MUSC are pushed to the limit and
need trained, professional support. To us, this piece of legislation
really boils down to a patient safety issue. Currently, in South
Carolina, it takes more training to work in a hair salon than in a
pharmacy preparing medications that are high risk. As patient
advocates, we need to ensure that all of our technicians have baseline
skills. This issue has become of interest not only in South Carolina,
but nationally, in light of recent medical and prescription errors.”
The U.S. Centers for Medicare said last year it will no longer pay
hospitals for complications arising from preventable medical errors,
including prescription errors. In August 2008, South Carolina’s
Medicaid program also announced it would stop paying hospitals for
medical errors and the complications they cause, according to SCSHP.
Private retail pharmacies oppose the measure because of the additional
training expense and higher salaries demanded by more highly trained,
MUSC also would have to address these added expenses and requirements.
Overall, the medical center and Department of Pharmacy Services support
“The Department of Pharmacy Services at MUSC is committed to providing
medications to our patients in a safe and effective manner,” said Paul
Bush, PharmD, MUSC pharmacy director. “By elevating the educational
requirements and training of pharmacy technicians across the state, we
are ensuring that our patients receive the highest quality care
Friday, April 3, 2009