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Technicians Assist Pharmacy Teams in Development of Drug Shortage Protocols

by Megan Coder | Jun 06, 2011

Optimizing health-system workflows to meet patient needs

WASHINGTON, DC - Hospital and health-system pharmacies continue to develop proactive strategies to manage drug shortages and promote patient safety with the support of Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) Certified Pharmacy Technicians (CPhTs).

Manufacturing issues, including shortages in raw materials and packaging supplies, product discontinuation, limited manufacturing capacity, and pharmaceutical industry consolidation, have led to a significant increase in drug shortages over the last five years. To avoid compromising patient care associated with shortages, hospital and health-system pharmacies have developed proactive strategies to streamline inventory maintenance and utilize key staff, including CPhTs, in pharmacy operations.

As part of the supply chain team, many health-system pharmacies utilize CPhTs as the pharmacy purchaser or buyer. In this capacity, CPhTs play a crucial role in assisting the pharmacy team with procurement of medications and managing inventory.

"Pharmacy technicians are instrumental in managing inventory and communicating department needs to supervisors," said Erin Fox, PharmD, Manager, Drug Information Services, University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics. "By working cooperatively within the pharmacy team, they allow the department to better optimize daily workflow output and reprioritize medication distribution activities as patients needs change."

Health-system pharmacies may better manage drug shortages by effectively utilizing available technology. Automation has evolved to expand distribution system capabilities and improve safety and efficiency in distribution. Automation pharmacy technicians, responsible for the management of automated dispensing devices such as robots or automated dispensing cabinets, assist with the implementation, maintenance, and optimization of these technologies and may be called upon to assist with drug shortage responsibilities. This includes assisting with product distribution, database modification, and the redistribution of product to areas of higher need.

"The accurate and timely distribution of medications to patients is a well-established responsibility in pharmacy practice," said Melissa Murer Corrigan, RPh, Executive Director and CEO of PTCB. "With the support of CPhTs in purchasing and automation roles, pharmacists may increase their involvement in patient care activities."

In response to recent drug shortages, US Senators Amy Klobuchar [D-MN] and Robert Casey [D-PA], with support of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, introduced the Preserving Access to Life-Saving Medications Act [S 296] in February. If enacted, this legislation would provide the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with additional tools to help prevent future drug shortages and require manufacturers to advise FDA when any discontinuance, interruption, or other action may decrease the supply of a drug to a level below the current demand.