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Certification for technicians considered by House

by Mary Helen Yarborough
Public Relations
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, certified technicians.
MUSC also would have to address these added expenses and requirements. Overall, the medical center and Department of Pharmacy Services support the measure.
“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 possible.”

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Catalyst Online is published weekly by the MUSC Office of Public Relations for the faculty, employees and students of the Medical University of South Carolina. The Catalyst Online editor, Kim Draughn, can be reached at 792-4107 or by email, Editorial copy can be submitted to The Catalyst Online and to The Catalyst in print by fax, 792-6723, or by email to To place an ad in The Catalyst hardcopy, call Island Publications at 849-1778, ext. 201.