Automated pharmacies for long-term care facilities advanced

Senators gave first-round approval May 21 to a bill that would allow automated pharmacies to operate in long-term care facilities.

Under LB326, introduced by Omaha Sen. Sara Howard, a Nebraska-licensed pharmacist would be allowed to install and operate pharmacies in long-term care facilities. The pharmacist in charge of the automated pharmacy would be required to develop and implement policies for security, accountability and drug and medical order verification to ensure compliance with the Uniform Controlled Substances Act.

The bill would require that each pharmacy be registered annually and would allow pharmacists to supervise a pharmacist technician operating the automated pharmacy by way of a real-time auditory and video communication system.

Howard said that storing and dispensing patients’ medications on-site would help long-term care facilities operate more efficiently.

A Health and Human Services Committee amendment, adopted 34-0, would require the pharmacist in charge of the automated pharmacy to be in compliance with the drug storage and five-year record-keeping requirement of the Pharmacy Practice Act.

Howard offered an amendment, adopted 28-0, which would require prescriptions for any controlled substance that is dispensed from a long-term automated pharmacy. She said the amendment was necessary to ensure the bill was compliant with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration’s regulations.

Columbus Sen. Paul Schumacher said he was concerned the bill would create a monopoly by enabling larger nursing homes to operate central pharmacies and not allow their patients to get medications from local pharmacies. If the health care system becomes more integrated and there is less outside supervision, he said, it could create a profit motive for facilities when making health care decisions.

He offered an amendment, adopted 31-0, which clarifies that the management of a long-term care facility where an automated medication system is located would not require a resident of the facility to obtain medication through the automated medication system and would not restrict or impair the resident’s ability to obtain medications from the pharmacy of his or her choice unless otherwise allowed by state or federal law or regulation.

Hyannis Sen. Al Davis supported the amendment, saying his mother lived in a long-term care facility that required residents to order their prescriptions through the facility’s medication provider. Residents should have the right to purchase from a pharmacist of their choice, he said.

The bill advanced from general file on a 37-0 vote.

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