SACRAMENTO -- The California State Board of Pharmacy here plans to require mail-order pharmacies to counsel patients via telephone prior to dispensing a new or changed prescription, but its final decision may be vetoed by the state's Department of Consumer Affairs.
On July 28, the board voted 7 to 2 to proceed with the implementation of the mail-order counseling regulation, with a final vote set for Oct. 24. The regulation is based on SB 1051, 1993, legislation passed last year in California paving the way for the board to require oral counseling by all pharmacies. This summer, mail-order pharmacies, led by the American Managed Care Pharmacy Association, tried to pass SB 2087, legislation which would have nullified 1051. While 2087 failed to pass before the state legislature adjourned, the bill's sponsor, Senator Henry Mello, obtained a guarantee from the Department of Consumer Affairs that any regulations passed by the board of pharmacy requiring mail-order's oral counseling would be vetoed, according to AMCPA.
The Department of Consumer Affairs has the power to veto the board's regulations, unless the board comes to a unanimous decision, confirmed a department spokesperson.
Robert Marshall, chief executive officer of the California Pharmacists Association, which actively supports the board's proposed regulation, said he does not understand why the Department of Consumer Affairs has become involved in the debate.
The department "was obviously informed of the issue by the mail-order industry but I don't know in what way," said Marshall. He added CPA's advice to the board will be that because 1051 exists, and requires "consistent requirements for all pharmacies," the board should proceed with the mail-order regulations. Patty Harris, executive officer of the board, said her organization "feels very strongly about patient counseling," but added it is likely the consumer affairs department will use its authority to override the board's decision.