Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

The NAPLEX: Evolution, Purpose, Scope, and Educational Implications

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

The NAPLEX: Evolution, Purpose, Scope, and Educational Implications

Article excerpt

Since 2004, passing the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX) has been a requirement for earning initial pharmacy licensure in all 50 United States. The creation and evolution from 1952-2005 of the particular pharmacy competency testing areas and quantities of questions are described for the former paper-and-pencil National Association of Boards of Pharmacy Licensure Examination (NABPLEX) and the current candidate-specific computer adaptive NAPLEX pharmacy licensure examinations. A 40% increase in the weighting of NAPLEX Blueprint Area 2 in May 2005, compared to that in the preceding 1997-2005 Blueprint, has implications for candidates' NAPLEX performance and associated curricular content and instruction. New pharmacy graduates' scores on the NAPLEX are neither intended nor validated to serve as a criterion for assessing or judging the quality or effectiveness of pharmacy curricula and instruction. The newest cycle of NAPLEX Blueprint revision, a continual process to ensure representation of nationwide contemporary practice, began in early 2008. It may take up to 2 years, including surveying several thousand national pharmacists, to complete.

Keywords: competency, North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX), licensure examination, doctor of pharmacy curriculum


State licensing of pharmacists is defined by state legislatures and based upon the measurement of competence that ultimately secures the protection of the public health. The assessment of an individual's competence to prepare and dispense medications was a primary reason for organizing state boards of pharmacy in the early 19th century. During those early days of regulation, the primary means for defining and measuring the competence to practice was the system of apprenticeship derived from the Medieval Guild system. It was not until some 150 years later that the profession of pharmacy recognized national, uniform standardized examinations as the basis for competence decisions.

The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) introduced the concept of a standardized national pharmacy examination in 1952, the 49th year of the Association. In 1958 formal development work began on what would eventually become the NABPLEX. Then NABP assistant secretary, the late Dr. Fred T. Mahaffey, hired just 2 years earlier to lead this effort, organized a process for constructing and administering the profession's national licensure examination. Under Mahaffey's direction and stewardship, committees were formed within NABP to research the issues and collaborate with educators from the colleges and schools of pharmacy and pharmacist practitioners to formulate the design and scope of a uniform and standardized examination that could be used by state boards of pharmacy in place of then existent individual, not validated state examinations.

In 1968 NABP convened the Blue Ribbon Committee, comprised of pharmacy board members and educators to develop a national assessment examination. The Blue Ribbon Committee produced the prototype Blue Ribbon Examination, which was recognized by 32 states when it was introduced in 1971. In 1975 the Blue Ribbon Examination was renamed the NABPLEX and its psychometric standardization process was contracted to an external testing and psychometric service. The NABPLEX was nationally introduced in 1976 when it was used as a licensing criterion by a majority of US state boards of pharmacy.

In 1979, the NABPLEX was included in the NABP Constitution and Bylaws as a requirement for interstate licensure reciprocity and active NAPB membership. By 1986 all US state boards of pharmacy except California used the NABPLEX. In March 1997, the NABPLEX was renamed the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination, NAPLEX, (1-9) which California recognized in 2004. The NAPLEX acronym was created when the NABP validated the examination for practice in both Canada and the United States. …

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