Will a Pharmacist-Only Drug Class Cut Errors?

OCTOBER 01, 2005
Ken Rankin

Health care experts responsible for developing new systems to prevent medication errors should consider granting the nation's pharmacists a broader role in monitoring patient drug use, officials at the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) said.

In comments submitted to the Institute of Medicine's (IOM) Committee on Identifying and Preventing Medication Errors, the APhA officials said that, in order to reduce the economic and health problems associated with drug mistakes, "the pharmacist's role as a medication therapy management expert must be recognized and fully utilized within the health care system." The pharmacy group specifically asked the IOM to consider whether the current 2-class system of drugs—prescription and OTC—still serves the needs of the nation's health care system.

The association officials suggested that "expanding the classes to include?a ‘pharmacist-only'class" for nonprescription medicines could "lead to a safer medication use system." They also urged IOM officials to consider recommending an additional new drug class "with pharmacist authority to authorize refills under a team-based approach to care."

According to the APhA officials, the epidemic of medication errors currently being experienced throughout the United States stems at least in part from the nation's outmoded system of drug regulation. "Medications have become a primary form of treatment in today's health care system," but "we are using them with regulations and practice standards that were developed 50 to 150 years ago," the officials said.

Mr. Rankin is a freelance medical writer.

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