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Pharma settlement

The proposed rule change considered this year by thr Washington Board of Pharmacy, to allow pharmacists to decide on their own whether to dispense certain legal prescription drugs, seems to bounce up against another state pharmacy rule, WAC 246-869-150, which says “The pharmacy must maintain at all times a representative assortment of drugs in order to meet the pharmaceutical needs of its patients.”

pillsYou could theoretically establish different types or levels of pharmacies; some of that kind of thing already has been done. But for the time being, most people walking into a pharmacy with a legitimate prescription in hand have an expectation that they can get it filled at most any licensed pharmacy. That seems to be the point of WAC 246-869-150.

Some pharmacists – a number around the country – have a problem with dispensing certain drugs, especially some contraceptives. The point of the pharmacy board’s proposed rule change was to allow them to decide not to. Deciding not to, of course, runs counter to the expectations of the patients.

That’s the crux of the debate in Washington (as it will be elsewhere, no doubt). In going along on Thursday with language developed after a series of sessions mediated by the governor’s office, the board opted for patient primacy.

There’s always a certain tension in professional regulatory codes between on one hand protecting the interests of the professionals and on the other those of the public. But any board which seems to place internal interests first shouldn’t be surprised when an external reaction develops.

This won’t be the end of it, of course. The Washington Legislature will doubtless weigh in next session. But the Thursday decision may cap the most heated part of this debate, for a while anyway.

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