NCPA Backs Legislation Allowing Patients to Purchase OTC Medications Without a Prescription for Their FSA or HSA


Alexandria, Va. - Feb. 11, 2011

Today the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) sent letters in support of The Patients' Freedom to Choose Act, recently introduced in the Senate and House by U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and U.S. Representative Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.), respectively. If enacted, the bill would repeal a provision in The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 requiring patients to obtain prescriptions for over-the counter medications when using their Flexible Saving Accounts (FSAs) and Health Saving Accounts (HSAs).

"We want to thank Senator Hutchison and Representative Paulsen for their strong leadership in attempting to restore the ability for patients to purchase OTC medications through their FSAs and HSAs without the inconvenience of first having to get a prescription from a doctor's office," said Kathleen Jaeger, NCPA executive vice president and CEO. "Until this year these commonplace and affordable drugs for treating pain, allergies and other ailments were not subjected to this unreasonable requirement. We call on Congress to pass these companion bills as quickly as possible."

An estimated 35 million Americans rely on voluntary contributions of pre-tax dollars to FSAs and HSAs for their basic health care needs. Readily-available OTC drugs are often used by patients before resorting to costlier doctor office visits, especially during cold and flu season. In fact, doctors are concerned the new regulation will only exacerbate the overwhelming stream of patients they have to accommodate on a daily basis for matters that might not require their intervention. Patients have always relied upon consulting with pharmacists, who are clinically trained medication experts, when they have questions about OTC drugs. The Hutchison and Paulsen bills would restore that balance while keeping patients healthy.

Jaeger added, "Just think about the inconvenience for parents and discomfort for their children when the usual routine of getting an OTC medication at their local pharmacy for a cold now requires getting a doctor's prescription."

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, pharmacy franchises, and chains. Together they represent a $93 billion health-care marketplace, have more than 315,000 employees including 62,400 pharmacists, and dispense over 41% of all retail prescriptions. To learn more go to www.ncpanet.org or read NCPA's blog, The Dose, at http://ncpanet.wordpress.com.

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