|21-Sep-10 3:00 PM CST|
NPTA Calls for National Pharmacy Technician Legislation Based on Emily’s Law in Ohio
HOUSTON — To help prevent medication errors and raise training standards for pharmacy technicians nationwide, the National Pharmacy Technician Association, which was instrumental in passing Emily’s Law in Ohio, is working to pass a national version of Emily’s Law.
Emily’s Law was named after two-year-old Emily Jerry, who died tragically when she was given a fatal dose of chemotherapy as the result of a medication error by a pharmacy technician. Hers was one of many heartbreaking stories covered in an article on medication errors in the October 2010 issue of Reader’s Digest magazine.
“A national version of Emily’s Law would help significantly reduce medication errors in the pharmacy by ensuring that all technicians have the proper education and training to handle complex medications,” said Mike Johnston, CPhT, the founder and CEO of NPTA.
Emily’s Law was signed into law by Gov. Ted Strickland in Ohio on January 7, 2009. The law was drafted by Sen. Tim Grendell (R-Ohio) with the assistance of NPTA and Emily’s mother Kelly Jerry. Under Emily’s Law, pharmacy technicians are required to pass a competency exam approved by the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy, be at least 18 years of age, and complete a Board-approved training program in order to prepare intravenous (IV) medications, compound or mix medications, or package and label medications.
As NPTA said in Reader’s Digest, pharmacy technicians currently handle about 96 percent of prescriptions dispersed in pharmacies, and 92 percent of Americans live in states that do not require technicians to have any formal training.
“For the good of patients, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, this is a trend that cannot continue,” Johnston said. “A national law requiring pharmacy technicians to undergo a formal education and training to practice will help reduce medication error, increase patient safety and prevent tragedies like Emily’s from happening to another family.”
NPTA will continue to work with legislators, health care professionals and advocates in the pursuit of a national version of Emily’s Law.
Emily Jerry was diagnosed with a yolk sac tumor when she was about a year and a half old. Her doctors had been treating the tumor with a combination of surgery and chemotherapy. On the day that Emily was to have her final chemotherapy treatment and received an excellent prognosis from physicians, she was given a base solution with 20 times the standard concentration of sodium chloride. The lethal dose of chemotherapy caused her brain to swell and put her into a coma. Three days later, Emily died at the age of two.
Upon investigating the cause of Emily’s death, it was discovered that the pharmacy technician who prepared Emily’s chemotherapy had opted to compound her own normal saline base solution instead of using a prepackaged IV solution bag. Standard IV bags contain a base solution of 0.9 percent sodium chloride. The base solution prepared for Emily contained approximately 20 percent the standard concentration of sodium chloride.
Emily’s tragic story drew local and national media attention and exposed the gross inadequacies of pharmacy technician standards and regulations in Ohio (as well as across most of the United States).
Kelly Jerry, Emily’s mother, resolved to ensure that another family would never have to encounter such a tragic and preventable loss. In 2006, the National Pharmacy Technician Association reached out to Jerry offering support, guidance and lobbying assistance. In 2008, with the support of Senator Tim Grendell (R-Ohio), SB 203, now known as Emily's Law, was introduced in the Ohio State Senate.
NPTA's Chairman and CEO, Mike Johnston, CPhT, traveled on numerous occasions to Ohio to support Kelly Jerry and to work with Senator Grendell in overcoming powerful, opposing lobbyist efforts and a few petty politicians. In a unique and unlikely series of circumstances, Grendell and Johnston were not only able to get all opposing parties on board with SB 203, but they were able to revise the bill, making it even stronger than the original draft.
Emily’s Law was passed on December 18, 2008. Ohio Governor Ted Strickland signed it into law on January 7, 2009 in Columbus, Ohio. Kelly Jerry, Senator Grendell and Mike Johnston attended the governor’s signing. The primary provisions of Emily's Law require that pharmacy technicians be at least 18 years of age, complete a training program approved by the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy, and pass a Board-approved competency exam in order to prepare IV admixtures, compound (mix) medications and label or package medications. The legislation also includes specific provisions related to criminal background checks and approved disciplinary actions for the State Board of Pharmacy.
Ultimately, Emily's Law has become a reality due to the strength, courage and perseverance of Kelly Jerry and her family and the tireless efforts of Senator Grendell and NPTA. NPTA is now working on a bill that will raise training standards and regulations for pharmacy technicians nationwide inspired by Emily’s Law.
The National Pharmacy Technician Association (NPTA), which was founded in 1999, is the largest non-profit trade association for pharmacy technicians in the world. The association represents over 30,000 individuals practicing in a variety of settings, such as retail pharmacy, health-system pharmacy, independent pharmacy, federal pharmacy services, purchasing, education and management. NPTA is the leading provider of accredited continuing education programs for Certified Pharmacy Technicians and offers advanced certifications in Sterile Products and Compounding. The association is committed to advancing the roles of pharmacy technicians to reduce medication errors and advocates for mandatory/standardized technician education, certification and registration. For more information on NPTA, call 888-247-8700 or visit http://www.pharmacytechnician.org/.
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