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The California Board of Pharmacy (BOP) has listed medication error as the number one violation resulting in a citation in nearly every year within the last several years. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, 46 percent of adults cannot understand the information listed on their prescription drug labels. Furthermore, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies indicates that medication errors are among the most common medical errors, harming at least 1.5 million people annually.

Pharmacists working in chain community pharmacies, particularly those co-located with other retail and grocery stores, have historically complained that it is common for a pharmacist to be the only employee assigned to the pharmacy area.

And according to previously conducted surveys, 83% of pharmacists report being left alone during the workday for an average period of four hours. And a high percentage of pharmacists stated that they do not have enough time to fulfill their professional functions to the extent that they believed necessary. These pharmacists have argued that instead of providing their core pharmacy services, much of their time is instead spent performing clerical tasks and performing non-pharmacy activities on behalf of the business.

A new law just signed by Governor Newsom, – Assembly Bill 1286 – is aimed at reducing the estimated 5 million mistakes pharmacists make each year.

According to the Author of AB 1286: “The root cause of medication errors in the community chain setting can be tied to pharmacy working conditions, like insufficient staffing, unsanitary conditions, or lack of autonomy to make clinical decisions in the best interest of the patient. Unfortunately, there is no requirement under current law for pharmacies to track medication errors or to consider the pharmacy working conditions that lead to medication errors.

AB 1286 will establish a first in the nation mandatory reporting of medication errors to allow for robust evaluation of the causes of medication errors. It also gives licensed pharmacy staff autonomy over their working conditions so they can provide better patient care and services for Californians.”

The new law empower the pharmacist-in-charge or pharmacist on duty to report conditions to the Board of Pharmacy (BOP) that present an immediate risk of death, illness, or irreparable harm to patients, personnel, or pharmacy staff.

If store management does not resolve those conditions within 24 hours, the pharmacist-in-charge or pharmacist would be required to notify the BOP. The BOP would then be authorized to issue an order to the pharmacy to immediately cease and desist those pharmacy operations that are affected by the conditions at issue.

This cease and desist order would remain in effect until either the executive officer of the BOP determines that the conditions that presented an immediate risk of death, illness, or irreparable harm to patients, personnel, or pharmacy staff have been abated, or for no more than 30 days, whichever date is earlier.

This new law seeks to improve the state’s understanding of the causes of medication errors by requiring community pharmacies to report all medication errors to an entity approved by the BOP. A community pharmacy or its designated third party would be required to submit the report no later than 14 days following the date of discovery of the error.

Reports would be deemed confidential and not subject to discovery, subpoena, or disclosure pursuant to the California Public Records Act, though the BOP would be authorized to publish deidentified data.

The BOP would not be allowed to subject a community pharmacy to discipline or other enforcement action based solely on the report; however, if the BOP receives other information regarding the medication error, that may serve as basis for enforcement by the BOP.