Pharmacy lobbyists object to workplace rules proposed by City Council

Pharmacy lobbyists lined up Tuesday to oppose a City Council proposal that would set limits on the hours and workloads of pharmacists, saying the changes would be costly and cumbersome, while aldermen responded that the first consideration should be consumer...

Pharmacy lobbyists object to workplace rules proposed by City Council

Pharmacy lobbyists lined up Tuesday to oppose a City Council proposal that would set limits on the hours and workloads of pharmacists, saying the changes would be costly and cumbersome, while aldermen responded that the first consideration should be consumer...

19 April 2017 Wednesday 05:22
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Pharmacy lobbyists object to workplace rules proposed by City Council

Pharmacy lobbyists lined up Tuesday to oppose a City Council proposal that would set limits on the hours and workloads of pharmacists, saying the changes would be costly and cumbersome, while aldermen responded that the first consideration should be consumer safety.

The measure, sponsored by Ald. Edward Burke, 14th, was inspired by a 2016 Tribune investigation that found 52 percent of 255 pharmacies tested in the Chicago region and nearby states failed to warn customers about drug interactions that could be harmful or fatal.

Garth Reynolds, executive director of the Illinois Pharmacists Association, told the Finance Committee chaired by Burke that the Tribune findings are "concerning and inexcusable" but that they don't represent what's happening throughout the industry.

While consumer safety is paramount for pharmacists, Reynolds said, they face challenges under the current "economic environment" to balance a "sustainable practice and quality patient care."

Under the proposal, pharmacies in Chicago would be required to limit the hours pharmacists work, restrict how many prescriptions they could fill per hour, require they get meal and break time, and provide whistleblower protection when they flag problems.

Reynolds testified he was concerned that the proposal would be difficult and costly to implement, points reflected by representatives for pharmacies that ranged from major chains to small independents to those that operate in hospitals.

Pharmacy representatives have consistently argued that the changes Burke has proposed — borrowed from a nearly identical bill in Springfield — are unnecessary, citing changes Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner is urging following the Tribune investigation.

Pharmacies miss half of dangerous drug combinations Sam Roe, Ray Long and Karisa King

The Tribune reporter walked into an Evanston CVS pharmacy carrying two prescriptions: one for a common antibiotic, the other for a popular anti-cholesterol drug.

Taken alone, these two drugs, clarithromycin and simvastatin, are relatively safe. But taken together they can cause a severe breakdown...

The Tribune reporter walked into an Evanston CVS pharmacy carrying two prescriptions: one for a common antibiotic, the other for a popular anti-cholesterol drug.

Taken alone, these two drugs, clarithromycin and simvastatin, are relatively safe. But taken together they can cause a severe breakdown...

(Sam Roe, Ray Long and Karisa King)

Pharmacy lobbyists also have called Burke's proposal unconstitutional, arguing that their industry can be regulated only by the state. But Burke, citing Chicago's inroads on such workplace issues as minimum wage and paid sick leave, said the city has good legal argument to implement the ordinance.

Ald. Jason Ervin, 28th, said Tuesday that a "good balance" must be struck on the issue but that a heavy emphasis should be placed on the safety of senior citizens and other constituents. He said so much is happening behind drugstore counters that "we sometimes miss things, and these errors can cause people great bodily harm."

Facing a bank of opponents, Ervin said they conveyed a "lack of balance in this conversation that is all being swung" toward the pharmacies.

Supporters of the proposal spoke at another Finance Committee hearing last month, when representatives of rank-and-file pharmacists maintained that changes are needed to cut down on prescription drug errors.

City Council hears push to bolster drug safety at pharmacies Ray Long

Warning that pharmacies are putting "profits over people," a drugstore pharmacist urged Chicago aldermen on Tuesday to approve a city proposal designed to improve customer safety by easing pressure on pharmacists to speed through prescription orders and limiting their work hours.

Jeremy Aguila,...

Warning that pharmacies are putting "profits over people," a drugstore pharmacist urged Chicago aldermen on Tuesday to approve a city proposal designed to improve customer safety by easing pressure on pharmacists to speed through prescription orders and limiting their work hours.

Jeremy Aguila,...

(Ray Long)

In Illinois, pharmacies are required to conduct several safety checks, including whether the dose is reasonable and whether the medication might interact with other drugs the patient is taking. But the Tribune's investigation, published in December, found pharmacists frequently race through legally required drug safety reviews or skip them altogether.

Pharmacists also told the Tribune they felt overwhelmed by pressures at the workplace to work quickly and meet quotas.

After the hearing, Burke said he may consider tweaks to the proposal but he anticipated a vote in the "near future."

"The concept is there. This will encourage the legislature to move forward," Burke said.

Among the seven pharmacy chains the Tribune tested, CVS had the highest failure rate at 63 percent of tests. Walgreens had the lowest, at 30 percent. Independent pharmacies had the highest failure rate overall, at 72 percent.

CVS, Walgreens and Wal-Mart each have promised to take significant steps to improve patient safety nationwide. Combined, the actions affect 22,000 drugstores and involve additional training for 123,000 pharmacists and technicians. Wal-Mart had a 43 percent failure rate in the Tribune's tests.

Following the Tribune report, Rauner proposed that pharmacists be required to counsel patients about risky drug combinations and other significant issues when buying a medication for the first time or when a prescription changes. Illinois now requires pharmacies to merely offer counseling, something often achieved by asking a question such as: "Any questions for the pharmacist today?"

At City Hall on Tuesday, Tanya Triche Dawood, vice president of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, pointed to the Rauner effort as making a significant difference in how pharmacies represented by her group would operate.

"With Illinois changing its regulations, it's really going to change the face of how we interact with pharmacists," she said.

The latest legislation nearing a vote in Springfield calls for a task force to examine the issue and come up with recommendations by Sept. 1, 2018.

rlong@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @RayLong

Our editors found this article on this site using Google and regenerated it for our readers.

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