Skip to main content Back to Top

1/11/2001

Certification Now Required for Texas Pharmacy Technicians

Nancy Tarleton Landis

A Texas law that took effect January 1 requires certification of all pharmacy technicians—an estimated 16,000 to 20,000, according to state board of pharmacy executive Gay Dodson. Dodson said 14,047 Texas technicians had passed the examination given by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and that about 5,000 had registered for the November 2000 PTCB exam in Texas.

Technicians not certified by January 1 can be reclassified as technicians-in-training, with some restrictions on their duties and one more year to become certified. A December letter from the state board to all Texas pharmacies indicates, for example, that technicians-in-training may not affix a label to a prescription container but may compound sterile pharmaceuticals.

The law also allows for exemptions to the certification requirement. While the state board supports certification of all technicians, it has established procedures for exemptions and will consider them on a case-by-case basis, said Dodson—but "won't be granting many." Technicians in the following categories are eligible to petition for exemption: Those who work in a rural county with a population of less than 50,000 and those who have been continuously employed as pharmacy technicians in Texas for 10 years (since September 1, 1991). Like technicians-in-training, exempted technicians have restricted duties; they cannot affix labels to prescription containers or compound sterile pharmaceuticals.

Texas has a ratio of pharmacists to technicians of 1:2—but 1:3 if one of the technicians is certified. In determining a pharmacy's ratio, exempted technicians do not count as certified technicians.

The Texas Society of Health-System Pharmacists (TSHP) has fully supported the requirement for technician certification, said TSHP president William Puckett. "Our people have worked hard to ensure that a national, validated exam was used. The public has a right to expect that pharmacy technicians all have a foundational competency and knowledge."

One possible ramification of the certification requirement, said Puckett, is a temporary shortage of technicians—"not good in the face of the pharmacist shortage." Entry-level technicians, he noted, can work for up to 12 months as technicians-in-training and have few restrictions on their duties compared with those of certified technicians. Puckett said the certification requirement is driving up salaries somewhat, a change he believes was needed. "We depend more and more on properly trained and certified pharmacy technicians, and they deserve to be compensated accordingly, especially if we want them to stay in the job as a career and not see it as only a temporary occupation."

The 1999 legislation mandating certification also requires that technicians be registered with the state board of pharmacy by September 1, 2001. TSHP has supported this, said Puckett, "because of the need to keep track of where technicians are working, their certification and continuing-education status, and other work-related issues." However, he said, the state board "has limited ways to deal with this without it becoming almost like licensure. We are working on this with the state board, and, through our Texas Pharmacy Practice Coalition, we may have to pursue legislative relief in this area by getting more flexibility for the board in the pharmacy practice act."