Senate committee considers proposals that would change pharmacy operations

Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 6.31.11 PMBy Mike Shields
KHI News Service

TOPEKA — A Kansas Senate committee today considered three proposed bills that could affect pharmacy operations across the state, including one that would require that the state’s 6,422 pharmacy technicians be required to pass an examination.

Currently, the technicians are allowed to work counting pills, labeling bottles and other “entry-level” type tasks with no minimum age or education requirements.

According to Debra Billingsley, executive secretary of the Kansas Board of Pharmacy, there are at least 22 of them working that are under the age of 18 and two that are younger than 16. They may or may not have finished high school, she said.

“You learn something every day,” said Sen. Laura Kelly of Topeka, ranking Democrat on the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee. “I had no idea these people weren’t licensed.”

House Bill 2510 would not require they be licensed, but it would require them to pass a standardized test in order to be certified to work in the state.

“There’s a national movement to require standardized training,” Billingsley told panel members. “This is sort of a trend.”

She said there were two “recognized” national tests that could be models for Kansas and that eight states already are requiring the technicians to be certified. The bill would let the pharmacy board determine the examination standards.

Currently, according to those who testified to the committee, most training for the technicians is provided by the pharmacists or companies that hire them. Those that hire them must affirm that they have learned what they need to know in order to handle drugs safely. More than a third of the technicians are employed by chain drugstores, according to information given the committee by the pharmacy board.

An earlier state law requires the technicians also be fingerprinted and pass a background check. That law was passed after some technicians were found to be diverting medications from prescriptions and selling them, Billingsley said.

HB 2510 has the backing of the Kansas Independent Pharmacy Service Corp., which is a group of independent pharmacists from across the state, the Kansas Hospital Association and others.

Testimony also was given in support of HB 2609, which would codify or formalize the collaborative work done by pharmacists with physicians.

Greg Burger, a pharmacist employed by Lawrence Memorial Hospital, was among those who testified on behalf of the bill. He said he and some other pharmacists have long worked in collaboration with doctors but that the bill could encourage the practice to become more widespread and clarify the protocols for it.

The committee also heard testimony in favor of HB 2561, which would allow the state pharmacy board to stagger its annual license and permit renewals; all of which currently expire June 30 each year.

Billingsley said allowing the agency to alter its permit renewal policy so that they didn’t all come due simultaneously would allow the board’s staff to process them “more efficiently” and allow the collection of renewal fees throughout the year rather than at the end of the state’s fiscal year.

“Year round renewals would provide a steady stream of revenue and would not burden the resources of the office,” she said.

Each of the three bills discussed at the hearing already has been approved by the Kansas House.

There were no opponents at today’s meeting. The committee is expected to work the bills at a later date.