A Senate bill's bad medicine on pharmacies

(Published in The Washington Post, 8/5/13)

We appreciate the Post's acknowledgement that traditional pharmacies "were not the source of the problem" in the 2012 meningitis outbreak, but the July 31 editorial "Good drugs" was wrong to state that a Senate proposal (S. 959) leaves regulation of such pharmacies to the states. In fact, it broadly expands Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversight of traditional pharmacies.

When manufactured drugs aren't an option, pharmacists prepare or "compound" customized medications for patients in accordance with a prescription based on the patient's needs. The Senate bill would limit patient access to such medications by giving FDA authority over what small pharmacies can compound in response to a doctor's request. And, as drug shortages increase, the bill would impede pharmacies' ability to compound medications to fill the void.

We support efforts to prevent another tragedy like the meningitis outbreak. However, the Senate should pass the bill's anti-drug counterfeiting provisions and get the compounding sections right before moving forward.

B. Douglas Hoey, Alexandria
The writer is chief executive officer of the National Community Pharmacists Association

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