Magazine article Drug Topics

New California Law Requires QA to Cut Drug Errors

Magazine article Drug Topics

New California Law Requires QA to Cut Drug Errors

Article excerpt

California is counting on quality assurance to reduce medication errors. A new law requiring all pharmacies in the state to implement QA programs will also keep medication error data out of the legal arena. The proposal was sponsored by the state board of pharmacy.

"It's a good move," said Fred Mayer, president of Pharmacists Planning Service Inc. (PPSI). "It's a very pro-consumer, pro-pharmacist law. Half of all errors could be prevented if pharmacists could stop making the same mistakes that ridiculous prescribing and dispensing systems force them to make over and over."

The state pharmacy board says California is the first state to turn QA recommendations from the 1999 Institute of Medicine report on medical errors into law. The IOM estimated that med errors alone kill more than 7,000 patients yearly. The institute called on state regulators to require health-care organizations to implement patient safety programs by assessing and improving the quality of health-care delivery systems. By sheer luck, said California pharmacy board legislative analyst Paul Riches, the board already had a QA bill in the works. "Suddenly, everybody understood the issue of medication errors," he said. "The IOM made it much easier to move the bill to the governor's desk."

Under the bill signed in September, pharmacies must identify and implement changes in prescribing and dispensing processes that could prevent drug errors. The board has until September 2001 to implement regulations, with QA programs due to go on line by Jan. 1, 2002, Riches said.

As originally drafted, the bill evoked strong opposition from the California Pharmacists Association (CPhA) as well as from the California Retailers Association, which represents chain drugstores statewide. "The universal comment from industry was, 'Don't do this; you'll have us in court,", Riches explained. "When we added an exemption from discovery procedures to protect pharmacists who were honest about reporting errors, the objections disappeared."

Exempting QA data and reports from discovery proceedings means pharmacists can stop worrying about lawsuits in most cases, the board said. Pharmacists can also stop worrying about board disciplinary proceedings except in cases of malfeasance, deliberate intent to harm, or obvious negligence that violates established procedures. As long as an appropriate QA program is in place and medication processes are changed to prevent future errors, the board is unlikely to punish for med errors. …

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