Someone Goes To Bat For The Profession. Not Surprisingly, It Is Not One Of Our Professional Organizations.

June 6, 2011

Malcolm J. Broussard, RPh
National Association of Boards of Pharmacy
1600 Feehanville Drive
Mount Prospect, IL 60056

Dear Mr. Broussard:

As the only national nonprofit organization focused entirely on efforts to prevent medication errors, we are writing on behalf of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) Board of Trustees to voice our concern about a safety issue that has been illustrated by a wave of recent national advertising—promoting and rewarding the speed at which community pharmacies dispense prescriptions for patients. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) and its members should play a key role in discouraging speed as a primary marketing tool for pharmacy services.

One of the largest pharmacy chains, Rite Aid Corporation, now advertises a “15‐Minute Prescription Guarantee,” where up to three new prescriptions will be dispensed within 15 minutes (average of about 5 minutes) or less. If a pharmacy fails to meet the mark, the customer receives a $5 gift card. Although there are some caveats mentioned in the fine print, the message is clear that speed should be a primary motivator in choosing a pharmacy. This trend is not limited to just one pharmacy corporation; other chains as well as independent community pharmacies have, from time to time, initiated advertising campaigns that insinuate or offer similar prescription time guarantees to their customers.

We have heard from pharmacists who claim that their pharmacy’s management actually tracks pharmacist productivity based on the number of prescriptions they dispense and whether or not they meet time promises. A 15‐minute dispensing claim for up to three prescriptions can jeopardize public health by putting pressure on pharmacists to work as quickly as possible and discouraging them from checking the patient’s history and drug profile; looking for possible drug interactions or duplications and other drug use evaluation concerns; calling physicians’ offices for clarification; and educating patients about the proper use of prescriptions (e.g., meeting patient counseling regulations).

It is unacceptable to hold pharmacists to specific timeframes for preparing and dispensing medications, since any mistakes that occur can have devastating effects on patients. Time limits also help promote the idea that the dispensing of medications is a ‘quick in and out process’ that only involves counting tablets.

ISMP frequently receives reports from consumers about medication errors resulting in harm to them or a family member. All too often they observe that the pharmacist seemed so rushed that work could not be thoroughly checked. Examples of serious errors due to volume and workplace distractions have been published in the ISM Medication Safety Alert! Community/Ambulatory Care Edition newsletter.

We realize that there are many issues that need to be addressed to encourage greater adoption of pharmaceutical care and improve safety in community pharmacy practice, such as reimbursement for counseling. But the reality is that community pharmacy prescription programs and inducements for such (e.g., discount coupons) are detrimental to safety and the practice of pharmacy. We should not be educating consumers that the primary determining factor about where they should have prescriptions dispensed is speed.

Since NABP’s mission is to support state boards of pharmacy in protecting public health, ISMP requests that NABP explore and assist members in employing methods to eliminate inducements to consumers that insinuate or promise prescriptions will be dispensed within timeframes that may compromise patient safety.

Lou Martinelli, PhD, PharmD 
Chair, ISMP Board of Trustees

Michael R. Cohen, RPh, MS, ScD, FASHP
President, ISMP

Cc:   ISMP Board of Trustees
Carmen Catizone, Executive Director, NABP 
William T. Winsley, MS, RPh, Immediate Past President, NABP
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Someone Goes To Bat For The Profession. Not Surprisingly, It Is Not One Of Our Professional Organizations.
Someone Goes To Bat For The Profession. Not Surprisingly, It Is Not One Of Our Professional Organizations.
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