Published Online: Monday, January 1, 2007

North Carolina pharmacists will no longer be allowed to work >12 hours at a stretch, and all pharmacists will be required to take at least a 30-minute break after working for 6 hours under new pharmacy board rules upheld by the state's supreme court.

The high court decision ended 8 years of litigation over the power of North Carolina's board of pharmacy to establish working hour restrictions for the state's pharmacists. Lower courts had ruled that setting limits on pharmacy work hours was not "integral" to the board's mission of ensuring safe dispensing practices.

State pharmacy regulators had argued successfully that "pharmacist fatigue and hunger can clearly contribute to dispensing errors." In a separate friend-of-the-court brief, the American Pharmacists Association noted that preventing "overtired pharmacists from making serious medication errors" is indeed an important part of the board's mission.

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