Exemption could come too late, if it all

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

By Theresa Flaherty Managing Editor

Community pharmacists continue to lag behind other providers when it comes to getting accredited, and industry stakeholders wonder if a pair of bills that seek to exclude pharmacists from the requirement may be to blame.

“We still see a lot of pharmacies that are holding out because of the bills,” said Sandra Canally, president of The Compliance Team. “They are thinking something is going to happen with an exemption.”

The bills, H.R. 616 sponsored by Reps. Marion Berry, D-Ark., and Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and S. 511, sponsored by Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Sam Brownback, R-Kan., were introduced in January and March, respectively. They contend that pharmacists are licensed medical professionals that should be treated like other exempted health providers, including physicians, nurse practitioners, social workers and dieticians.

The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) supports both bills, but it has said that pharmacists should go ahead and get accredited anyway.

“We are working hard to build support in both legislative bodies to ensure pharmacists are exempted from this onerous, costly and redundant rule like other medical professionals,” said John Norton, public relations manager for NCPA. “However, we continue to tell our members that they must proceed as if the accreditation process will continue in its current framework.”

With the Sept. 30 deadline a little more than three months away, there could be some pharmacists left out in the cold. It is wise to allow six months to year or more for the process, even though surveys can be done in less time, recommends Bob Weir, a surveyor for HQAA.

“People get the policy and procedures manual and submit the paperwork and think they are ready to go,” he said. “I’ve gone to surveys where the manual is still in the shrinkwrap. They don’t understand there’s a whole process.”