I thought of these questions while reading the comments of Dave Wilcox, RPh, owner of Northwest Medical Pharmacy in Fresno. Mr. Wilcox testified on behalf of the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) at the California Board of Pharmacy’s Work Group on E-pedigree last Wednesday. You can read his written testimony online.
NCPA argue that the implementation should be extended to January 1, 2011. They also raise two points that anyone concerned with pedigree should consider:
- “As E-pedigree is implemented, independent pharmacists should be compensated for the costs associated with the purchase of multiple technologies.”
- Regarding “inference” that a container has the items listed in it: “[A] pharmacist and other recipients of 'inferred' containers should be held harmless for the contents of the container.”
Alas, I wonder if raising the costs and administrative burdens of pedigree for pharmacies could lead to rampant non-compliance and turn pedigree laws into a meaningless exercise that will not secure the supply chain.
The Return of Unsafe Sourcing?
I also wonder if the burden of pedigree could tempt some pharmacies to engage in unsafe buying practices, especially if any type of importation law gets passed in the next Congress.
A recent Integrichain white paper suggests that $10 billion in prescriptions products in 2006 were either diverted, parallel imported, or outright counterfeit. Their analyses suggest that most secondary wholesalers now buy from non-wholesale sources (including long term care facilities, retailers, and public health services) and then sell directly to pharmacies. (You can download this white paper after registering.) Florida continues to have major diversion problems in the first year of its new pedigree laws.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but we should all acknowledge that it will be very difficult for the CA Board of Pharmacy to catch non-compliance. The California Board of Pharmacy has 50 employees and a budget of less than $10 million. There are fewer than 20 field inspectors to cover 5,300 community pharmacies and almost 65,000 community pharmacists – and that’s before we start counting institutional pharmacies in hospitals and clinics!
Given these limited resources, the CA Board ambitiously aims to inspect every licensed facility once in every three year inspection cycle. Pedigree non-compliance will likely to be low on the list of potential frauds.
Who should pay for pedigree?
Last January, I warned that private companies are being forced to shoulder the burden of protecting the drug supply chain with a do-it-yourself (DIY) model. I don’t see much changing in the future.
So far, nearly all of the costs of pedigree are being borne by manufacturers and wholesalers. Independent pharmacists are busy just trying to keep their heads above water - as the comments about AMP made by pharmacists on my blog indicate.
Since many boards of pharmacy are composed of independent pharmacists, I sincerely doubt that these Boards will allow additional burdens or costs to be put on independent pharmacies. Just reread California’s statute, which I view as deliberately vague about whether pharmacies must actively check the pedigree from wholesalers.
Still not convinced? Consider the comments of Bruce Roberts, who recently highlighted NCPA’s intention to “minimize any impact” of Federal pedigree laws on independent pharmacy. In 2006, the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) expressed its mild support for the FDA's attempt to implement the PDMA but worried about any minor disruptions or costs to pharmacists. (Read the APhA statement to the FDA.)
So, what do the pharmacists out there think? Who should pay for pedigree? Am I being a realist or a pessimist?