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Lawmakers move to require training for pharmacy techs

BY Drew Buono

WASHINGTON —A bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives would require training and certification for pharmacy technicians to prevent mistakes, such as the one that killed 2-year-old Emily Jerry more than two years ago. Instead of using a pre-packaged solution containing less than 1 percent salt, a technician filled the bag with almost 26 times that level.

U.S. Rep. Steve LaTourette, R-Ohio, proposed “Emily’s Act” or the “Pharmacy Technician Training and Registration Act of 2008” on March 1, the anniversary of the death of Jerry.

The legislation would require that pharmacy technicians be trained, registered and certified across the country. Currently, Ohio is one of about 20 states that does not require technicians to be trained or registered, although the hospitals that employ them can demand, and provide, training.

LaTourette said that since technicians perform many of the same tasks as pharmacists, they should have training. He also noted that Americans “would be a little bit dismayed if they knew that they and their loved ones were having drugs mixed for them by people who don’t have any training requirements.”

His bill would make federal grants available to states that require all technicians—in hospitals, retail stores and other settings—to pass a national training exam administered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board. It also would require reporting of prescription errors to state pharmacy boards and limit the number of technicians supervised by a single pharmacist.

LaTourette said he will seek co-sponsorship from 20 members of Congress with constituents who were injured or died from errors by pharmacy technicians. He said the proposal has the backing of actor Dennis Quaid, whose newborn twins mistakenly were given 1,000 times the usual dosage of a blood thinner in November at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

The bill calls for a supervision ratio of two technicians per pharmacist in a hospital setting and three technicians per pharmacist in any other pharmacy practice. In order to become a technician, the bill requires a high school diploma or GED equivalent, an associate’s disagree in pharmacy technology or completion of a course accredited by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.

LaTourette is not the only politician working on a technician bill. In July, Sen. Tim Grendell introduced a similar bill into the Ohio senate, where it since has languished in committee, but Grendell has stated that he would reintroduce the topic.

Under Grendell’s bill, existing pharmacy technicians would have to pass a certification examination. All technicians would undergo continuing education.

According to representatives of LaTourette, the move to train and certify pharmacy technicians has drawn support and resistance from pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and hospitals. Some pharmacists argued that the increased level of training is vital, while others said it is unnecessary and will discourage people from entering the field. NACDS has said that it supports allowing pharmacy technicians to complete employer-based training programs and evaluations as an alternative to mandatory certification exams.

Grendell said that measure has drawn quiet resistance from pharmacy lobbyists over the proposed pharmacist-to-technician ratios and the prospect of higher salaries for technicians who meet the tougher standards.

A recent survey by the PTCB showed that Americans had strong misperceptions about the required qualifications of technicians. The poll results showed that the majority of Americans believe that all pharmacy technicians are required to be certified.

Forty-five percent of those surveyed incorrectly thought that people without formal training were not allowed to help pharmacists prepare prescriptions, and a majority, 58 percent thought that only licensed pharmacists are involved in dispensing prescriptions.

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JPMA refutes media reports about dangers of baby bottle materials

BY Jenna Duncan

MT. LAUREL, N.J. The media has been asked by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association to halt stories with claims of purported negative health effects from using baby products containing bisphenol A (BPA). JPMA claims that statements of ill health linked to items containing BPA are often misleading and frighten consumers.

According to JPMA, research has shown that when used properly, products made with BPA do not pose a health threat.

Robert Waller, Jr., the president of JPMA, said, “JPMA is extremely disappointed in the media for speculating that Health Canada’s assessment of BPA would recommend labeling the chemical a dangerous substance, when in fact the report has not even been issued yet.”

Claims in the media have stated that risk may come from the plastic shields on pacifiers, parts of baby bottles or sippy cups being broken down or chewed, and then ingested with food or saliva. Scientific findings indicate that BPA may cause estrogenic effects in laboratory animals, and so concerns about the safety of baby products, especially bottles, has been under scrutiny.

JPMA, whose mission is to educate consumers and industry professionals about juvenile products and safety, is referring consumers to its Web site, www.babybottles.org, for more information on BPA and related health findings.

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American Greetings reports fiscal 2008 profit

BY Doug Desjardins

CLEVELAND American Greetings generated $83.3 million in earnings for fiscal 2008, including $15.6 million in the fourth quarter ended Feb. 29, and more than $1.77 billion in total sales for year. Total sales were down about 1 percent from $1.79 billion the previous year, but earnings were up 96 percent from $42.4 million.

“I’m pleased we were able to achieve earnings within our forecasted range and exceed our cash flow guidance,” said American Greetings chief executive officer Zev Weiss. “Our strong cash flow allowed us to make two acquisitions in the digital photo space and repurchase shares.”

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