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Bill Would Provide Oversight Of Pharmacy Technicians

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Ohio lawmakers are considering a measure authorizing state oversight of pharmacy technicians in an effort to overcome Ohio's drug overdose epidemic.  Ohio Public Radio's Andy Chow reports.

As a pharmacist in the Columbus suburb of Westerville, Jarrett Bauder says it's important to build relationships with his patients.

Bauder: "To know somebody on a first name basis when they come in and know what you've talked about before and what therapies they've tried makes it so much easier to intervene or build that trust that the patient will be able to feel comfortable coming to you."

Bauder has been a pharmacist at Uptown Pharmacy for 13 years. He says while a pharmacist is the medication expert who can confirm that the prescription matches the appropriate treatment, a pharmacy technician is more of a jack-of-all-trades.

Bauder: "Our technicians are a key part of our team."

Pharmacy techs are trusted with entering data into the computer, pulling the pills off the shelf, counting them and putting them into a vile, among many other things.

Unfortunately, as important as they are, there are pharmacy techs who might abuse their position in order to steal drugs.

Bauder: "That's always a possibility regardless of what position we're hiring for that somebody might have ulterior motives to come in and steal from an organization."

There are more than 42,000 pharmacy technicians in the state. The Ohio Board of Pharmacy reports that technicians account for one-third of all thefts of drugs from pharmacies - which could then flow into the community, feeding Ohio's addiction crisis.

Even if these lawbreakers are caught, there's still a possibility they could get new jobs in new towns, and their past violations don't show up on background checks.

That's why Gov. John Kasich's administration is proposing a new law that would require pharmacy technicians to register with the state. As Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor explains, this helps patrol the profession.

Taylor: "So that we can make sure we're keeping track of the work that they're doing and they can't job hop if they've been in a situation where they're moving from one job to another because of theft or other loss of opiate prescription."

Ernie Boyd with the Ohio Pharmacists Association says this is another helpful tool towards stemming the drug abuse epidemic. Boyd says technicians who steal are usually drug addicts themselves and when caught are sent to treatment instead of prison.

Boyd: "But we found that that way of handling it doesn't allow us on a police background check to really find all the people we need to keep out of the back of a pharmacy."

As Ohio leaders try to fight addiction, more and more policy is directed toward the world of pharmacy. Bauder acknowledges his role in the effort.

Bauder: "There is a huge problem and it does need to be addressed."

But he adds that it's possible to be handcuffed by too much regulation.

Bauder: "Sometimes the regulations make it difficult to meet the needs of patients who truly do have real legitimate pain concerns and I do worry that it does put a hardship on those scenarios where patients are having trouble accessing medications."

Bauder says making pharmacy techs register with the state might be a good thing for the profession. He says the salary for technicians varies from store to store and that registration could bring more consistency across the board.

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