Miss. Board of Pharmacy adjusts Technician Ratio to 3:1

The Mississippi Board of Pharmacy (MBOP) has updated the pharmacy regulations to allow for the greater use of technicians in all pharmacy practice settings.  The official update reads as follows:

UPDATE ON PHARMACY TECHNICIAN/PHARMACIST RATIOS

Revisions to the Pharmacy Practice Regulations regarding the increase in Pharmacy Technician/Pharmacist ratios have been completed and effective August 1, 2016, the ratio is three Pharmacy Technicians to one Pharmacist. This ratio applies to all practice settings. Please bear in mind that, regardless of the ratio, that those tasks authorized to be conducted by Pharmacy Technicians may only be performed under the direct and immediate supervision of a Pharmacist. It is the responsibility of the Pharmacist-In-Charge as well as supervising pharmacists to provide supervision of duties of the pharmacy technician and to prevent pharmacy technicians from performing those functions relative to dispensing which are functions based on a judgement for which the pharmacy technician has not been prepared by education or authorized by law or regulation. The Pharmacist-In-Charge (PIC) is responsible for assuring that all personnel are properly registered with the Board. If you have questions concerning ratios or approved tasks of a Pharmacy Technician please contact the office of the Board.

The Board’s adjustment comes at a time when most pharmacies are struggling to stay in business or at least make their individual department within the company profitable. I doubt seriously that any pharmacy is ‘profitable’ in the traditional sense of the word in 2016.  Most, if not all, are simply a means to draw customers into the store for other reasons and will use creative accounting techniques to claim that their pharmacies actually turn a profit and justify exorbitant bonuses to a select few company ‘associates.’

I imagine most large chains (Walgreens, CVS)  and mass merchandisers (Fred’s, Wal-Mart) will take advantage of the new ratio to reduce the number of pharmacists on staff at any given time and, consequently, save on labor costs.  The claim has always been that using technicians will allow the pharmacist more time to spend with the patient and/or giving immunizations.  We’ll see.  I have heard that line in one form of the other for 25 years now and it never works out in the pharmacist’s favor.  My experience has been that any time there is a claim to free up the pharmacist to “do more of this” or “more of that” it turns out later on to simply be a way to demand that the pharmacist (or the pharmacy ‘associates’ to use the corporate speak gobbledygook)  process more “output” with fewer resources.  It may be that the MBOP has finally recognized that this ratio has probably been the norm for many years now and it really can’t justify assessing fines because nobody is following the rule.  At least now, those who were trying to follow the rule but really struggled to keep up with the demands of their corporate ‘bosses’ can release a general sigh of relief.  What is to say a 4 to 1 ratio is reasonable?  5 to 1? Why do we need prescriptions anyway?  Do other first world nations have such a dis-functional prescription drug distribution apparatus in place?

Follow the money.

James P. Tinsley, RPh, J.D.