Texas Pharmacy Owner Testifies on Prescription Drug Abuse to U.S. Senate Panel



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Alexandria, Va. - July 18, 2012 Joseph H. Harmison, RPh, owner of Harmison Pharmacies in Arlington, Texas and past president of the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA), testified at today's U.S. Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control hearing, "Responding to the Prescription Drug Epidemic Abuse." Harmison described some of the factors that help cause the problem -- 76.5 million Americans suffer from pain and nearly 70 percent of drug abusers obtain the prescriptions from their family's medicine cabinet or from friends -- and the role independent pharmacists play in trying to prevent abuse. He then recommended several new legislative policies.

"Community pharmacists hold in high regard their responsibility to exercise sound professional judgment when making a determination about the legitimacy of a controlled substance prescription," said Harmison in his testimony. "We are proud of the fact that most independent community pharmacies have strong, long-lasting, face-to-face, personal relationships with their patients and the prescribers in their communities. This in fact serves as a deterrent to abuse because we know our prescribers and our patients, making it easier for us to detect a ‘doctor shopper' just looking for more controlled substances."

Harmison added, "At the same we time, we support a more systems-based approach to controlling abuse and diversion. Everyone needs to be involved: patient, pharmacist, pharmacy benefit manager, wholesaler, manufacturer, and prescriber."

Harmison's policy recommendations to further combat prescription drug abuse include:

  • Additional education requirements for prescribers and tying those requirements to their Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) registration;
  • Limiting the large quantities of controlled substance prescriptions that are sent through mail order and refilled automatically;
  • Creating carefully structured Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies (REMS), prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs), and electronic prescribing systems that are in compliance with DEA requirements;
  • Passing the Online Pharmacy Safety Act (S. 2002 / H.R. 4095), which would help stop illegal pharmacies from distributing dangerous drugs;
  • Requiring increased clarity from the DEA as to what constitutes excessive orders as recent prosecutions of legitimate pharmaceutical supply chain components have left some independent community pharmacies unable to provide controlled substances for patients with genuine medical needs; and
  • Addressing the serious problem of pharmacy crime by providing tax incentives for pharmacies to adopt crime prevention measures; improving communications between federal and state law enforcement officials to better coordinate prosecution of pharmacy crime; and holding congressional oversight hearings to examine the effectiveness of existing laws.

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The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA®) represents the interests of America's community pharmacists, including the owners of more than 23,000 independent community pharmacies. Together they represent a $93 billion health care marketplace, dispense nearly 40% of all retail prescriptions, and employ more than 315,000 people, including 62,400 pharmacists. Independent community pharmacists are readily accessible medication experts who can help lower health care spending. They are committed to maximizing the appropriate use of lower-cost generic drugs and reducing the estimated $290 billion that is wasted annually by improper medication use. To learn more go to www.ncpanet.org or read NCPA's blog, The Dose, at http://ncpanet.wordpress.com.

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