July 18, 2012

AMA Seeks Changes at Pharmacies, Opposes OTC+

Chicago—American Medical Association delegates at the recent annual meeting had a lot to say about what pharmacists should be doing.

But what may have the largest impact is their opposition to the drug paradigm proposed by the FDA, dubbed OTC+. It would create a new class of drugs between prescription and OTC and gives pharmacists more autonomy in dispensing them.

The delegates passed resolutions calling for pharmacies to hire interpreters and expanded its previous resolution opposing the sale of tobacco products in drugstores.

As for employing interpreters in pharmacies, “the AMA already believes that offering these services is important, and it is clear that understanding medical instructions including, but not limited to, medical dosage and timing are all essential elements in providing health care services,” said Bethany Bush, who spoke for the AMA Medical Student Section. That’s the group that drafted the interpreter resolution approved at the organization’s annual meeting.

In terms of tobacco sales, the AMA voted to create a recognition program for pharmacies that voluntarily eliminates the sale of tobacco. It already passed a resolution saying those products should not be sold in drugstores.

"Pharmacies that simultaneously sell tobacco cessation products alongside cigarettes and tobacco products are sending a mixed message to consumers, and the AMA wants to publicly recognize those pharmacies that put the health of their customers first by not selling tobacco," explained AMA board member Alexander Ding, MD.

The AMA also adopted a blanket policy that opposes federal and state legislation allowing pharmacists to prescribe medication without a valid order by a physician as well as any legislation that permits pharmacists to dispense medication beyond the expiration of the original prescription.

The action was in response to a public meeting in March in which the FDA sought feedback on expanding the range of OTC drugs. Under the proposal, certain medications could be obtained from the pharmacy counter without a prescription but under “conditions of safe use.” The change would eliminate unnecessary doctor visits and connect more patients to needed medications, according to the FDA.

“Should the FDA move forward, it will likely have a sea of impact on the physician community,” delegate Joseph Sokolowski Jr., MD, said at the meeting.

Key pharmacist associations support the FDA proposal and had asked the AMA to temper its opposition.

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