ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Despite concerns from the state medical and dental boards, the Board of Pharmacy unanimously agreed to allow Alaskans to pick up emergency contraceptives and other prescription drugs from pharmacies without first seeing a physician.
Pharmacists at the board meeting Friday said the regulation change will help patients keep on top of certain health concerns by seeing a pharmacist and filling prescriptions between doctor's visits.
''It's hard to get in to your doctor sometimes,'' said Cindy Bueler, a pharmacist on the board. ''It's expensive.''
The new regulation allows a physician to sign a collaborative agreement with a pharmacist to dispense certain medications without a doctor's visit. Each agreement must be approved by the Pharmacy Board.
This arrangement isn't new; other states such as Washington have it. Applications for this new approach could include dispensing flu shots or helping patients manage asthma and diabetes or obtain emergency contraceptives, the board said.
The proposal drew almost 70 public comments. The majority discussed emergency contraceptives and agreed with allowing collaborative agreements for prescribing them, Bueler said.
Dr. Colleen Murphy, an Anchorage obstetrician and gynecologist, has pushed for the regulation change to give women another option to avoid pregnancy and control the size of their families.
''And it's all about access in a timely manner,'' she said Friday. Emergency contraception is not the recently approved abortive tool RU-486. It is a contraceptive that usually prevents pregnancy if taken 72 hours after sexual intercourse; the pills are more effective if taken within 12 hours, local doctors said.
The Alaska State Medical Board and the Board of Dental Examiners wrote letters to the Pharmacy Board saying they were concerned about the regulation change.
''The Board of Dental Examiners is unanimously opposed to the proposed changes,'' the board's letter stated. The collaborative agreements would, in effect, give pharmacists the ability to practice medicine or dentistry, the letter said, and physicians don't have the statutory authority to give that ability to anyone who lacks the proper licensing. The Alaska State Medical Association wrote a letter expressing similar concerns about inadequate authority.
However, a preliminary opinion by the Department of Law states that the agreements are within the pharmacist's scope of practice, said Debora Stovern, licensing examiner with the Division of Occupational Licensing. The Department of Law will review the regulation change again, now that the Pharmacy Board has approved it.
If state lawyers find no fault with the change, the regulation goes next to the lieutenant governor's office for signature and a 30-day waiting period. The process could take as little as two months, or possibly as long as a year, Stovern said.
The Medical Board expressed concern that the collaborate agreements would fragment patient care, according to written comments signed by Dr. Sarah Isto of Juneau, board chairwoman. The board said it might support collaborative agreements only for emergency contraception or other drugs requiring immediate use.
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