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Illinois governor denigrates pharmacy profession          Send a link to a friend

[DEC. 5, 2005]  WASHINGTON -- The American Pharmacists Association is appalled at Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's insensitive remarks concerning the profession of pharmacy, featured on CNN's "Lou Dobbs Tonight" that aired Dec. 1. It is unfortunate that despite the years of education and specialized training to which pharmacists commit and the daily honing of skills, the governor chose to equate their role among health care professionals with that of non-health-care professionals. Such a characterization is patently unfair.

A majority of Americans would most certainly agree that dispensing medications -- many extremely potent -- in a pharmacy is much different from "checking out groceries in a supermarket." Each time a prescription is dropped off at the pharmacy counter, the pharmacist uses his clinical expertise and experience to determine whether that prescription is clinically safe. If a legally prescribed medication is deemed harmful -- due to a possible drug interaction, overdose, underdose or conflict with the patient's other health conditions -- the pharmacist works with the physician to make the necessary adjustments on the patient's behalf. Pharmacists customarily work with the patients themselves to help them understand and make the best use of their medications. All of this happens daily, routinely, before the patient leaves the pharmacy.

If the governor sincerely wants to expand access to emergency contraception, he will act to allow pharmacists working in collaboration with physicians to prescribe and dispense emergency contraception under specific written protocols such as those in use in New Hampshire, Alaska, California, Hawaii, Maine, New Mexico and Washington State.

Since April, when Blagojevich issued his emergency order that requires pharmacies to dispense prescriptions "without delay," both the American Pharmacists Association and the Illinois pharmacy community have tried to work with and educate his administration about the critical role pharmacists play on the health care team. The governor's most recent statements gravely insult the profession's contribution to health care and the patient care services pharmacists provide.

Litigation is pending in Illinois regarding the state's Healthcare Right of Conscience Act, and the courts will play their role to interpret the statutory language and its applicability to pharmacists. The American Pharmacists Association awaits the court's decision on the matter, particularly how pharmacists' protections as health care professionals are to be interpreted.

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The American Pharmacists Association supports the ability of pharmacists to excuse themselves from certain activities -- much the same way doctors, nurses and other health professionals excuse themselves. But in contrast to the approach taken by other health care professionals, the association's endorsement of the ability to "step away" comes with an additional task -- the establishment of alternative systems to ensure that the patient gets clinically safe, legally prescribed therapy. This duty is entirely in keeping with the code of ethics for pharmacists and forms the bedrock of accountability to individual patients.

When this policy is implemented correctly -- and proactively -- it is seamless to the patient. The patient gets his or her medication, and the pharmacist steps away from an activity he or she may find objectionable. The American Pharmacists Association sees the accommodation of both the patient and the pharmacist as a preferable solution.

Denigration of an entire profession is not required.

[Statement of the American Pharmacists Association]

The American Pharmacists Association is dedicated to improving medication use and advancing patient care. Founded in 1852 as the American Pharmaceutical Association, APhA is the first-established and largest professional association of pharmacists in the United States. The more than 53,000 members include pharmacists, scientists, student pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and others interested in advancing the profession.

The Illinois Pharmacists Association, founded in 1880, is the state's largest and oldest organization representing all pharmacy practice settings.

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