Boston bans cig sales in all retail pharmacies
BOSTON —Less than half a year after tobacco products sold in San Francisco drug stores went into permanent exile, a major city on the opposite side of the country has enacted a similar ban.
Boston enacted its own ban on Feb. 8. Like their counterparts in San Francisco, Boston’s health officials contended that as a healthcare institution, a pharmacy should not sell products that cause illness.
But Boston’s ban on tobacco sales in pharmacies hasn’t elicited nearly the annoyed response from retail pharmacy chains. Unlike the San Francisco ban, the Boston ban covers all stores that operate pharmacies—including mass merchandisers and supermarkets—rather than drug stores alone.
Comparison of Boston and San Francisco tobacco bans
|Date effective:||Oct. 1, 2008||Feb. 8, 2009|
|Reasoning:||Pharmacies are healthcare institutions and should not sell unhealthy products; selling healthcare products and tobacco sends mixed messages to consumers.||Pharmacies are healthcare institutions and should not sell unhealthy products; a group of teens in a low-income neighborhood also pushed for the law, seeking to reduce use of tobacco among residents.|
|Coverage:||Drug stores only||All retailers that operate pharmacies, as well as college campuses; also includes additional bans on smoking in public places|
|Opposition:||Opposed by NACDS and retail pharmacy chains||Opposed by NACDS, but not by retail pharmacy chains|
“A pharmacy is a pharmacy is a pharmacy; it doesn’t matter where it’s located,” Boston Public Health Commission communications director Ann Scales said. “Our interest was in making sure drug stores and pharmacies didn’t sell tobacco products, and to us, that definition applied to grocery stores as well.”
The commission’s definition placated such retail pharmacy chains as Walgreens. “We obviously are complying with the regulations,” Walgreens spokeswoman Vivika Vergara said. “I think the situation is different from the one in San Francisco.”
In the case of San Francisco, Walgreens filed a lawsuit over the city’s ban, alleging that it discriminated against retail pharmacies by exempting grocery stores and mass merchandisers that operate pharmacies.
“We were being equitable, we think, in terms of treating our pharmacies the same,” Scales said. “Before that challenge even arose, we were already moving in the direction of including big boxes and grocery stores.”
Despite the similarity between the two laws in effect and timing, Scales said Boston’s ban didn’t draw inspiration from the one in San Francisco. Instead, it was the result of a multi-year campaign by a group of teenagers from one of Boston’s low-income neighborhoods who wanted to reduce exposure to tobacco. “They petitioned the board; the board bought the argument,” Scales said.
So far, the ban has worked, and Scales said that a Feb. 8 to 9 inspection of 73 pharmacies found 100% compliance with the new law.
Obama may overturn Bush’s ‘conscience’ rules
NEW YORK The Obama Administration may overturn the Bush Administration’s “conscience” rules that allow healthcare workers to invoke religious beliefs to deny certain services such as birth control, according to published reports.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Barack Obama may roll back the provisions, which allow pharmacists to refuse to prescribe birth control pills on account of personal religious beliefs.
Seven states have also filed lawsuits to challenge the rule, the newspaper reported.
Clear up patient medication guidelines, independent pharmacy group urges FDA
ALEXANDRIA, Va. The National Community Pharmacists Association wants the government to give patients a clearer, more concise set of guidelines on how to take their medications, the effects those drugs have and the risks and benefits they carry.
The independent pharmacy organization yesterday urged the Food and Drug Administration’s Risk Communication Advisory Committee to push for a change in the current system of overlapping instructions that go to patients along with their prescriptions. In testimony before the committee, NCPA asked the agency to develop criteria for a guidance that would describe “a single, patient-friendly, written prescription information sheet to eventually replace the multiple written documents that patients can currently receive from their pharmacists with a particular prescription.
Under current practices, those documents can include Medication Guides, Patient Package Inserts [PPIs] and Consumer Medication Information [CMI]. Too often, said NCPA’s director of public policy, Tony Lee, patients discard the CMI and never read it — sometimes even throwing it away before they leave the pharmacy.
“While we recognize that the FDA has worked hard to try and improve these medication documents, the problem needs to be addressed in a fundamentally different way that combines useful written information with the personal relationships between the pharmacists and patients,” Lee told the FDA advisory panel.
“It is time for a comprehensive solution to this written prescription information issue,” added John Coster, NCPA’s senior VP of government affairs. “Any FDA effort to make CMI more useful for the patient should be accompanied by a broader assessment of the usefulness and purpose of the other information leaflets that pharmacist may be required to provide. We look forward to working with the agency and patient groups to meet this goal.”
Last summer, NCPA joined other pharmacy provider groups to file a “One Document” citizens’ petition with the FDA. The Risk Advisory Committee was convened specifically to address how to make CMI leaflets more useful for the patient, the group noted.
“These leaflets are voluntarily provided by the pharmacist, but the information contained in these leaflets often duplicates information in other written leaflets,” NCPA stated.