Letters to the editor: June 4, 2007

June 4, 2007

Not all technicians are trained adequately now, which is why so many drug errors are still occurring.

Key Points

As a paramedic, I had to go through two years of general college course work and another two-plus years of standardized training to receive my license to practice. I cannot imagine someone jumping in the back of an ambulance without training. So how can we expect to have pharmacy technicians working at a certain level of expertise without standardized education?

If the states are not willing to step in and institute change in this area because of "financial questions," namely, will it cost the mom-and-pop pharmacies a little extra because they have to hire qualified tech-nicians, then the federal government should set down legislation to do it. The federal government sets rules concerning training of emergency medical technicians, so why can't it do the same for pharmacy technicians?

William "Bud" Kirkland, CPhT, EMT-P
Implementation Analyst II/Rx Safety
RelayHealth
Atlanta, Ga.
bud.kirkland@relayhealth.com

Techs shouldn't be hired off the street

Having read the May 7 "Viewpoint" by NPTA's Mike Johnston, I would like to add my response.

The topic of national standardized education for pharmacy technicians is not a new one, and I have been pursuing this avenue for almost a decade now. The "20/20" broadcast, though sensationalized, did hit on the fact that something must be done to ensure patient safety.

Patients have always been led to believe that their prescription for the IV solutions that run in their veins was filled by a practicing pharmacist. The reality is that technicians fill 95% of prescription orders, including those for IV solutions. This in itself would not be a cause for alarm but for the fact that technicians in several states need no prior education or experience to work in the pharmacy setting. In fact, some state boards of pharmacy do not even recognize technicians as part of pharmacy.

If I were a consumer, I would question why a technician-and not the pharmacist-is filling my prescription order. It is the pharmacist in whom I place my trust. The answer is simply that there is a major shortage of pharmacists nationwide, and the role of the technician has changed to more of a dispensing function than simply one of working the cash register.

Many employers, pharmacists, and even state boards argue that technicians are trained and in some cases must be certified by passing a national exam to work in pharmacy. In other states a technician can be hired off the street with no prior experience. Employers may require a national certification exam, which does exist, but this exam can be taken by someone with no formal education or prior experience. In fact, one can take the national exam having never stepped foot in a pharmacy. So what validity does the national exam offer besides the fact that one studied the books and passed?

I am a true national advocate for pharmacy technicians and I believe they are capable of filling medication orders. But I also believe that without proper training of all technicians, medication errors will continue. The more consumers become aware of who is filling their prescriptions, the more they will demand accountability via standardized formal education for technicians in both the didactic and the practical sense.

Joe Medina, CPhT
National Pharmacy Technician Advocate
President/Founder, Tech Lectures
joemedina@techlectures.com

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