Pharmacy boards under siege: Chronically underfunded, these agencies struggle to meet their responsibilities while fighting state and federal groups for control

June 4, 2007

Chronically underfunded, these agencies struggle to meet their responsibilities while fighting state and federal groups for control.

Such variations from state to state have created a patchwork quilt of sometimes conflicting regulations, complained Larry Sasich, Pharm.D., consultant for Public Citizen and assistant professor of pharmacy practice at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine School of Pharmacy. "It provides an opportunity for mischief," he asserted.

Not surprisingly, pharmacy boards are undergoing close scrutiny. Already this year, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D, Mass.) has circulated a draft version of the Safe Drug Compounding Act of 2007, which seeks to give the Food & Drug Administration unambiguous regulatory power over compounding pharmacies, largely removing boards of pharmacy from the process. In addition, this April Gordon Smith (R, Ore.), the ranking Republican member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, called on the Congressional Research Service to conduct a 50-state examination of how compounding pharmacies are regulated and to examine the role of state boards of pharmacy.

Critics and supporters are quick to point out that lack of board action is not necessarily the fault of individual board members who serve for little or no pay as a public service. "They want to do what is right," insisted Larry Wagenknecht, CEO of Michigan Pharmacists Association, discussing the members of the Michigan Board of Pharmacy. "But they become very frustrated that so many things are outside of their control."

"It is not a paid position," added Jay Campbell, executive director of the North Carolina Board of Pharmacy. "People don't do this for the money or the glory. Our members devote an average of 50 days per year. They are compensated for expenses, but it is very minimal."

"It is a tough job," echoed Catizone. "Board members have limited resources, and yet they still do it."

Putting safety first

The primary responsibility of every board of pharmacy is protecting public safety. Yet, one of the biggest challenges for all pharmacist members of pharmacy boards is differentiating between public safety and the good of the pharmacy profession. "Pharmacists need to remember that state boards were constituted to protect the public and not pharmacies," insisted Sasich. "In some states, that has been forgotten."