April 22, 2013

Maine lawmaker seeks tighter pharmacy regulation

Rep. Sharon Anglin Treat says Maine should learn from the 2012 meningitis outbreak linked to Massachusetts.

By Susan M. Cover scover@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

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click image to enlarge

Pharmacy technician Suzanne Goddard works under a hood preparing bags of intravenous medicines in the sterile room at Kennebec Pharmacy & Home Care in Augusta.

Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

In addition to Treat's bill, the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation, which oversees the pharmacy board, will be submitting proposed changes to state compounding rules to lawmakers. Doug Dunbar, a department spokesman, said the rules have not been finalized, but he indicated in an email that they will incorporate some existing federal standards and rules from the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.

He said Maine does not have the type of compounding pharmacies that mass-produce drugs to be shipped elsewhere. There have been no complaints to the state Board of Pharmacy in recent years with regard to compounding pharmacies, he noted.

"The places we've heard about, where the problems emanated from, we don't have those here," he said. "We have retail pharmacies that may on occasion compound on a per-prescription basis."

Douglas Carr, a lobbyist for Rite-Aid, said Treat's bill goes too far and is not likely to put in place the kinds of public health protections needed to prevent what happened in Massachusetts.

"We certainly are very mindful of the concerns and share concerns about what happened at New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts," he said. "We're not sure what she's proposing would prevent that."

In particular, Rite-Aid is concerned about Treat's proposal to replace two of the five pharmacists on the board with a physician and a nurse. The seven-member board has five pharmacists and two public members. Carr said the board only rarely deals with compounding pharmacies.

"The pharmacists are experts in terms of drugs," he said. "Ninety-nine percent of the time it is not going to be dealing with compounding."

Joe Bruno, president of the Board of Pharmacy and a former Republican state lawmaker, called Treat's bill "an overreach and an over-stretch." He, too, disagrees with removing pharmacists from the board.

"It would be like putting a pharmacist on the plumbing board," he said. "We haven't had a problem here in Maine."

Treat said she hopes members of the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee ask tough questions of state regulators during the public hearing on her bill, which is set for 9:30 a.m. Monday.

"Here at the state level, we can make sure the gaps are filled in and make sure we've done our due diligence," she said.

Susan Cover can be contacted at 621-5643 or at:

scover@mainetoday.com

 

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