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Pharmacy Organizations Urge Bond to Withdraw Request for HHS Inquiry into Regulation of Pharmacy Practice

Kate Traynor

ASHP and eight other pharmacy organizations last week sent Sen. Christopher S. Bond, R-Mo., a letter urging him to withdraw his request for the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate whether states and the federal government adequately regulate the practice of pharmacy. Bond had made his request one week after a Kansas City, Mo., pharmacist was indicted on 20 charges of tampering, adulterating, and misbranding drugs used to treat cancer.


September 14, 2001

The Honorable Christopher S. Bond
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Bond:

The pharmacy organizations listed below, representing all segments of pharmacy practice nationally and in the state of Missouri, are writing to express our significant concern with your August 31, 2001 correspondence to Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Tommy Thompson, challenging the integrity and oversight of the profession of pharmacy.

Your letter appears to be prompted by a recent incident of alleged criminal activity and professional misconduct by a pharmacist in Kansas City. Our organizations condemn the alleged activities of pharmacist Robert Courtney—activities which violate the fundamental responsibility of the pharmacist to ensure that patients receive the correct medication and understand how to make the best use of that medication. We do not, however, agree with your assessment that this unethical conduct may be "a symptom of a larger problem still awaiting full discovery." The actions of one individual should not be used to question the integrity of one of the nation’s most trusted professions. Individual pharmacists are appalled by Courtney’s alleged dealings, and find such activity simply unthinkable. Pharmacists work every day to fulfill their role as the medication expert on the health care team. We believe that your letter unfairly questions pharmacists’ commitment to their patients and the profession.

Further, we are concerned with the questions raised in the letter about the effectiveness of the existing state regulatory system for pharmacists and pharmacies. In contrast to the regulation of other health care professionals, the profession of pharmacy requires licensure of both the professional (the pharmacist) and the place of practice (the pharmacy). Regulation of health care professionals, including pharmacists, is and should remain a state function. Each state determines the education and licensure requirements of physicians, pharmacists and others who counsel or interact with patients regarding prescription medications and the scope of practice authorized with that license. State boards of pharmacy take disciplinary actions against pharmacists for misconduct or failure to abide by the state laws or regulations. Boards have the ability—and consider it one of their primary responsibilities—to revoke and suspend licenses as well as to place them on probation when necessary. Moreover, State boards of pharmacy and Federal authorities currently work together where violations of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act are involved, establishing a cooperative safety net.

You appear to propose a direct federal role in regulating the practice of pharmacy, questioningthe ability of state regulators. This isolated incident of alleged criminal behavior does notsupport the restructuring of a well-designed state-based regulatory system. Patients in Missouri and throughout the country would be better served by shifting focus to ensuring sufficient support for state regulatory activities rather than challenging the performance capabilities of those very regulators.

We support state regulation of the profession, as well as compliance with high professional and ethical standards. We strongly disagree with issues raised in the letter, and urge you to withdraw this inquiry. Thank you for considering our views on this matter.


Missouri Pharmacy Association (MPA)
Missouri Society of Health-System Pharmacists (MSHP)
American College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP)
American Pharmaceutical Association (APhA)
American Society of Consultant Pharmacists (ASCP)
American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP)
Food Marketing Institute (FMI)
National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS)
National Council of State Pharmaceutical Association Executives (NCSPAE)