Physicians, pharmacists spar over Walgreens script-verification policy

Despite the difficulties physicians face in combatting doctor shopping and prescription painkiller misuse, most don't welcome a new policy Walgreens says it has designed to help them.

According to Walgreens' new "Good Faith Dispensing" policy, the company "may, at times, require" the pharmacist to contact the prescribing doctor to make sure the diagnosis, the exact billing code, the expected length of therapy and "the previous medications/therapies tried and failed" are correct.

While Walgreens spokesman Michael Polzin acknowledged in an interview with Boston-based WBUR's CommonHealth that the new policy "may mean that getting prescriptions filled could take extra time," the American Medical Association has blasted the policy as being far worse than a minor inconvenience.

As the AMA wrote in a June resolution, "pharmacists are not and under no circumstances should be required to confirm the appropriateness of a prescription; this decision is a purely medical one, completely in the purview of the treating physician." The policy "will be very disruptive to physicians' practices, interrupting visits and procedures and delaying other patients' care." The Walgreens policy may also seriously delay "delivery of medications to all patients."

But not all physicians are against pharmacists' assistance in promoting safe patient care, David Craig, a clinical pharmacy specialist at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, in Tampa, Fla., told Pharmacy Practice News. "I work collaboratively with many physicians who do not agree with this resolution at all," he said. "In fact, they welcome any pharmacist's input, advice and recommendations."

Nonetheless, Richard Pieters, M.D., a radiation oncologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center and the president-elect of the Massachusetts Medical Society, who wrote the original draft for the AMA resolution, maintained that the Walgreen's policy crosses a line beyond pharmacists' scope of practice. "Pharmacy phone calls for allergies, drug interactions, strengths are totally appropriate," he told PPN. "And we understand that there is a [prescription drug abuse] scourge and that drug overdoses are a major problem. But this is not how you fix it. This is the drugstore chains trying to look like good citizens on the backs of the medical community."

To learn more:
- see the story from WBUR's CommonHealth
- read the article from Pharmacy Practice News
- see the post from the FDA Law Blog

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