Board of Pharmacy changes get bipartisan praise, and interest from private business

By Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports

Don’t want to go to urgent care for that nagging cough? Now, you might not have to.

Changes in rules governing Idaho pharmacists received bipartisan praise on Monday, as presenters noted how experiences for patients and pharmacists alike have improved since those rules took effect last year.

At a House Health and Welfare meeting, Idaho Board of Pharmacy chairwoman Nicki Chopski presented rule changes that allow, among other things, pharmacists to prescribe certain medications and the removal of a $250 law exam once required for pharmacists to get their license.

These changes, along with ones in previous years, have already made a difference, according to those who testified in front of the committee.

Former board chairman Mark Johnston, who currently represents CVS, said the Board of Pharmacy and legislature’s actions caught CVS’s attention — particularly a modification from last year that allows pharmacy technicians to do data entry work remotely.

As a result, the company is opening up a mail order facility in west Boise. That facility is scheduled to open in late summer, Johnston said, and will eventually employ an estimated 150 people.

The facility won’t have any drugs on-site, Johnston told Idaho Reports. Instead, employees will do data entry and other work for CVS shipping facilities located around the country.

That wouldn’t have been possible before last year, said Alex Adams, former executive director of the Board of Pharmacy.

We used to have a law that required anyone working for a pharmacy had to be physically at the pharmacy,” Adams said. But doing data entry in the busy atmosphere of a pharmacy can be distracting, and allowing technicians to do that work elsewhere has resulted in more accurate reports, Adams told the committee.

Currently, only a handful of states allow technicians to do data entry and paperwork away from pharmacies, Johnston said. That was key in attracting the CVS facility to Boise. Since the rule change went into place, other companies have expressed interest in opening similar branches in Idaho, Adams said.

Another change that allows pharmacists to write prescriptions for certain common maladies — such as minor acne and mild coughs — has proven popular among patients and pharmacists alike, Chopski said.

Adams cited one case in which a pharmacist in McCall was reportedly able to help a woman with an ailment, saving her from driving to Boise for care.

“The first prescription was written within hours of this rule taking effect,” Adams said, and has resulted in zero complaints.

Chopski said the Board of Pharmacy has cut six licensure categories. “This year, you’ll see us continue in that same direction,” she said.

Committee members of both parties praised the Board of Pharmacy for its actions.

“I feel like the Board of Pharmacy is taking the lead in slashing regulations and promoting a free market,” said Rep. Bryan Zollinger, R-Idaho Falls.

Rep. Sue Chew, D-Boise and the legislature’s only pharmacist, agreed.

“It’s so nice to get outside of the lines we’ve been constricted to and do the things we’re more than capable of doing,” Chew said.

 

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