Senate Bill 340, which would allow ‘remote pharmacies’ that are not staffed by an on-site pharmacist, cleared Michigan Legislature Wednesday, January, 8, 2020 on a 32-5 Senate vote. The bill is now waiting for Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s signature in order to be passed as law.
SB 340 would allow the use of telecommunication to permit a pharmacist at a ‘parent pharmacy’ to oversee up to two remote pharmacies. Pharmacists at the parent pharmacy would utilize real-time audio and visual connections in order to supervise the remote locations. However, the bill would only permit a remote pharmacy in a location if it is more than 10 miles from a regular pharmacy, unless the state waives the requirement due to evidence of other factors limiting local patient access to pharmacy services.
This bill, proposed by Michigan Senator Curt VanderWall and backed by the Michigan Pharmacists Association and major drug distributor Cardinal Health, aims to expand patient access to pharmacy services in rural and underserved areas. If passed, Michigan would become the 24th state to allow remote pharmacies staffed only by pharmacy technicians.
“We must find creative ways to address the needs of this community as well as the cost of prescription drugs,” VanderWall said. “These are very complicated problems, and expanding access to telemedicine and telepharmacies will play an important role in solving them.”
Nevertheless, SB 340 is not without it’s opposers. Senator Mallory McMorrow believes the use of remote pharmacies could increase the strain on the supervising pharmacist, therefore increasing the possibility for mistakes. “It doesn’t feel like it actually solves what is a very real problem and has the potential to do some damage,” said McMorrow. She cites concerns over the amount of time the parent pharmacy would have to oversee triple the amount of prescriptions, potentially creating an environment where drugs are diverted for illicit use.
Senator McMorrow also noted a Michigan Campaign Finance Network report on Cardinal Health, a powerful backer of the bill, registering as a lobbyist in 2019 and pushing for this legislation. Later in the year, the State of Michigan sued many drug distributors – Cardinal Health among them – over their contribution to the national opioid epidemic.
The bill is currently being reviewed by Governor Whitmer.
For more information on pharmacy regulations, please contact Adrienne Dresevic, Esq. at (248) 996-8510.