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Pharmacy Technician Summit Addresses Profession's Future

Kate Traynor

Representatives from ASHP, fellow members of the Council on Credentialing in Pharmacy, and officials from the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association met recently in Washington, D.C., to discuss the developing role of pharmacy technicians.

According to a preliminary report issued July 2, the 34 summit attendees focused on making recommendations that will prompt improvements in the pharmacy technician profession within three to five years.

Key to the discussion was the decision that a standard definition of "pharmacy technician" should be adopted. The summit participants classified pharmacy technicians into three categories:

Category one. The approximately 150,000 technicians and trainees in this category perform the work of a pharmacy technician, but they have not passed the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) exam. Ideally, technicians at this level are high-school graduates or are working toward graduation or its equivalent, or are enrolled in a formal pharmacy-technician training program or plan to do so in the future. Although some summit participants said that this category should be phased out, others suggested the profession will always need the services of uncertified technicians.

Category two. This category includes the 111,000 pharmacy technicians who have passed the PTCB exam and uncertified technicians who are eligible for the exam. A category-two pharmacy technician has also completed an educational program that meets voluntary national standards for pharmacy technician training. The summit attendees recommended that, by 2008, the completion of an accredited training program be a prerequisite for taking the PTCB exam.

Category three. This category is composed of an undetermined number of pharmacy technicians who meet the requirements of category two and either have completed additional training or have experience in a specialty area. Summit attendees identified this category as an advanced career path for pharmacy technicians, exposing them to emerging practice areas in the profession.

Summit participants also recognized that pharmacies rely on support staff, such as cashiers, inventory control specialists, and delivery personnel, who are not technicians but play an important role in the pharmacy.

Registration of pharmacy technicians. The summit attendees agreed that state boards of pharmacy should immediately begin to register, but not license, people who are classified as pharmacy technicians. The attendees recommended that state boards of pharmacy work to revise their states' pharmacy practice acts to require the registration of all pharmacy technicians by 2005. Also recommended was that state pharmacy boards be given the authority to hold pharmacy technicians accountable for their actions and assigned duties.

A formal document that revises and builds on these initial recommendations will be released this fall.

Correction 17 July 2002—The summit took place in Baltimore and was the second one initiated by the American Pharmaceutical Association to explore the future direction of pharmacy practice.