Pharmacists count on techs’ help to complement their knowledge and ease their burden
Verifying prescription accuracy may be the most important step in the prescription filling process.
Validating a legitimate prescription is the critical step in ensuring the appropriate supply and distribution of medications through the proper channels. Advances have been made to minimize prescription forgery via tamper-resistant and specially made prescription pads and electronic prescribing. However, regulations in some states limit the types of medications that can be prescribed electronically, most notably controlled substances. Because of this, pharmacists must educate all employees on what information to look for when discerning the validity of prescriptions, primarily those for controlled substances.
Ultimately, the decision regarding whether a new prescription is valid comes down to the pharmacist’s professional judgment. However, because of the pharmacy technician’s time and interactions with new prescriptions through the initial data entry process, pharmacists can involve techs in identifying red flags that call into question the validity of new prescriptions. In this way, techs serve as additional filters and important aides to pharmacists in mitigating improper medication use.
Although pharmacists spend large portions of entire ethics and law courses on the elements of valid prescriptions, techs typically have not received as much exposure to this concept.
As pharmacists learn throughout their education, only prescriptions written for a “legitimate medical purpose in the usual course of professional practice”1 are valid under the law, which was later defined legally as “in accordance with a standard of medical practice generally recognized and accepted in the United States.”2
Although pharmacists verify prescription information after it is entered into pharmacy computer systems, techs first receive the prescriptions and complete data entry.3 The key to educating techs on this front is to ensure that they understand what signs to look for regarding invalid or valid prescriptions, recognizing that they must bring potential issues to a pharmacist rather than attempt to adjudicate situations on their own and try to refuse prescriptions based solely on their own judgment.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) published a guide, A Pharmacist’s Guide to Prescription Fraud, to provide a reference for pharmacists to ensure that controlled substances are being dispensed for legitimate medical purposes.4 The guide’s appendix highlights suspicious circumstances that should give pharmacists pause before filling prescriptions. Some of these cases are appropriate and relevant for techs.
These situations include the following:
Because of their involvement in receiving new prescriptions, techs must complement the pharmacists’ expertise and knowledge while helping eliminate some of the burden of validating new prescriptions. Certified pharmacy technicians must participate in at least 20 hours of continuing education (CE), including at least 1 hour of pharmacy law. Because of these requirements, pharmacists and pharmacy managers can encourage their certified techs to seek out CE related to prescription validation. This additional knowledge can allow techs to ease the burden of validation on pharmacists.