Hansen bill could transform the way pharmacies do business

A measure introduced in the Michigan Senate on Tuesday could pave the way for new approaches to the way medical prescriptions are delivered.

Senate Bill 373 would enable pharmacies to conduct pilot projects that could utilize new or expanded technology or processes to provide patients with better pharmacy products in a more efficient manner.

“This concept was brought to my attention after meeting with local pharmacists who requested that the state develop this pilot program,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Goeff Hansen, R-Hart.  “The pharmacy industry, more than most, is constantly evolving. New technologies and practices have the potential to improve products and services for the consumer.

“Pilot projects give pharmacies the ability to explore these options on a small scale under controlled conditions. If successful, these new options could then be offered statewide.”

Currently, automated machines are allowed to dispense prescription drugs in limited designated facilities, such as hospitals, hospices and nursing homes. Michigan pharmacists are required to be available for questions from customers each time a new prescription is dispensed, regardless of the location.

However, Michigan law does not take into consideration technology that would allow the customer to communicate with a pharmacist via a video screen. By authorizing the Michigan Board of Pharmacy to conduct a pilot project, dispensing machines could be installed to allow customers to have access to pharmacists via video.

“I’m currently working with the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs to allow the most innovative developments to be explored under the supervision of professional experts—without exposing the public to new untested practices,” Hansen said.

Hansen emphasized that his bill will not affect the doctor-patient relationship.

“Doctors will still be the ones prescribing the medication,” he said. “Pharmacies will simply fill those prescriptions. A patient’s relationship with his or her doctor remains vital to ensure patient safety and effective health care.

“This measure will improve access to medications and pharmacy services for those who might otherwise have difficulty picking up their prescriptions.”

SB 373 would require the Board of Pharmacy to approve all pilot projects. The Michigan Public Health Code currently grants authority to this board to, among other functions, regulate, control, and inspect the character and standards of pharmacy practice and of drugs manufactured, distributed, prescribed, dispensed, and administered or issued in the state.

Under the legislation, the board would award no more than 25 projects, with the flexibility to determine how many applicants or petitioners would be granted the same type of pilot project.

No pilot project could exceed 18 months, unless the board granted special permission to extend a project up to an additional 18 months. Every pharmacy conducting a pilot project would be required to submit a status report every three months to track the viability and progress of the project.

SB 373 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Health Policy.