Pharmacy Laws

Laws regulate the practice of all health care professionals, including pharmacists. State pharmacy laws define the requirements for being a pharmacist and the scope of a pharmacist's practice. Federal pharmacy laws are enforced by the Food and Drug Administration, and mostly have to do with the regulation of narcotics and other controlled substances.

Pharmacists deal with life and death situations. If a pharmacist makes a mistake in filling a prescription, the patient can be injured or may even die. Pharmacy laws are intended to prevent mistakes from happening.

Three recent developments make it more likely, however, that a pharmacist might make a dangerous mistake. The expanding role of the pharmacist, increasing use of chain pharmacies, and the critical shortage of pharmacists put people at risk for a dangerous medication error.

Expanding Role of Pharmacists

Pharmacy laws in several states are expanding the role of pharmacists. Pharmacists are highly educated and skilled health care professionals. They used to actually compound some of the medications that doctors prescribed, but they rarely do that anymore. A pharmacist's role for the last several decades has been to fill the prescription your doctor writes.

Recently, pharmacy laws have expanded the role of pharmacists to use more of their knowledge and training. They don't just dispense pills anymore. They are consultants and teachers. They alert doctors and patients of possible drug interactions, side effects and other problems. In many states, pharmacy laws now require them to do this.

Chain Drug Stores

In the days when pharmacists compounded medications, most of them also owned their own drug stores. Now, most pharmacists work for drug store chains. Pharmacists used to be independent businessmen invested in their communities. Now they are employees of large corporations.

The drug store chains want to maximize their profits, and sometimes they cut corners to do that. Pharmacists who work for them may be vastly overworked. They usually have a staff of technicians to supervise, and many pharmacy departments are often understaffed. In a situation like that, medication errors are more likely to occur.

Shortage of Pharmacists

We have a serious national shortage of pharmacists, and it is getting worse. When you realize that we do not have enough pharmacists and that they have more responsibility, you can see how medication errors are more likely to happen.

Pharmacy laws require pharmacists to dispense medications accurately all of the time, even under difficult circumstances. When they do not do that no matter what the reason they are committing malpractice.

Millions of Americans receive the wrong medication or the wrong dose of a medication. Many are injured, and a few even die from medication errors. If you have been injured because of a medication error, you may deserve compensation for your injury. To find out, call a lawyer who is knowledgeable about pharmacy laws and who understands pharmacy malpractice.

Federal Laws

Pharmacists are health care providers, and therefore they must comply with federal laws about using your personal information. Federal law regards any information about you and your health care as confidential, and that information can only be released under certain regulated circumstances. The federal laws that regulate what information can be released, who it can be released to and the circumstances in which it can be released are the HIPPAA Privacy Rule.

Congress enacted federal laws to protect the privacy of our health information to keep that information from being used to harm us. For instance, if a prospective employer knows that you have a chronic illness, he might discriminate against you in hiring or work place practices. Your health information is protected under federal laws.

Breaches of confidentiality by healthcare providers are not only illegal; they are also unethical. A pharmacist who releases your health information inappropriately has violated federal laws, and he is guilty of malpractice, too. He has violated the ethical principles of his profession. Here are two fictional examples of how this could harm you:

#1. You have mild schizophrenia and take medication for it. You have functioned well in society, completing college and doing well in your career. When refilling your prescription, the pharmacist discusses it out loud with a clerk, and your immediate supervisor overhears. The pharmacist has mentioned your name, the name of the medication and that it is used to treat "serious mental conditions."

#2. A hospital pharmacist gossips about his day in the lunch room, and tells other employees that you are receiving medications that are used to treat a sexually transmitted disease, which you do not have. Unbeknownst to the pharmacist, one of the people at his table is your daughter.

In these examples, one person will be prosecuted for breaking federal laws about privacy, and both have used confidential health information from a patient's record to demean you. This is considered malpractice.

Why is this important? Because when a healthcare professional harms you by breaking federal laws about privacy, it is malpractice. You may have a right to compensation for the harm done to you. If you think you may have been harmed because a pharmacist or other health care professional released protected information about you, please call a lawyer who is an expert in malpractice law to help you. Don't wait to call.

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State Laws

State laws regulate the practices of health care professionals, including pharmacists. If a pharmacist does not adhere to these laws, he is guilty of malpractice, and may be fined or could lose his license to practice. If you are harmed because the pharmacist broke any one of the state laws that govern pharmacies or pharmacists, you may be entitled to compensation for damages. Three common types of state laws regarding pharmacists regulate (1) what the requirements are to be a pharmacist, (2) what a pharmacist may and must do as part of his or her practice and (3) state laws about the supervision of non-professional pharmacy personnel and the limits of their practice.

Requirements for Pharmacists

Most state laws say that pharmacists must have completed an educational program in pharmacological science and procedures. Sometimes the state laws identify courses that must have been included in the pharmacist's education. Some state laws require that pharmacists take a competency test for licensure, and some require that pharmacists keep up their skills through continuing education. The classes that must be taken and the tests that must be passed may differ slightly from state to state. If you are concerned about a pharmacy or pharmacist in your local area, you may want to familiarize yourself with the laws pertaining to pharmacies and pharmacists in your particular state.

What Pharmacists May and Must Do

Most state laws prohibit pharmacists from prescribing medications. Medications can only be prescribed by licensed physicians. Pharmacy practice is limited to preparing, dispensing and teaching about medications. According to many state laws, pharmacists must teach patients about their medications, including how to take them, any potential side effects, and any potential interactions with other drugs. Recently, some state laws have been enacted that require pharmacists to monitor the sale of certain over-the-counter medications that are used to make methamphetamine. In pharmacies all over the country, over-the-counter medicines that contain "ephedrine" as an ingredient are kept behind the pharmacy counter, and cannot be sold in large quantities.

Supervision of Non-Professional Pharmacy Staff

Pharmacy technicians and clerks can perform certain duties under the direction of a pharmacist. State laws usually regulate what those duties are, and may even spell out what kind of supervision is required.

State laws regulate the practices of health care professionals to protect consumers. If you have been harmed because a pharmacist has violated state laws, you may be entitled to compensation. A lawyer who specializes in malpractice law can help you figure it out. Let us help you through this difficult time. Contact us today.

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Page Description: Pharmacy Laws: Federal and State Laws.