Illinois to propose pharmacists to get breaks, fewer duties

Illinois News

CHICAGO (AP) — A task force created to examine the safety of pharmacy practices in Illinois has recommended that pharmacists be required to take breaks, that they be given fewer tasks that distract them from dispensing medications and that they get enough time to review patients’ drug histories.

Illinois officials formed the task force after a 2016 Chicago Tribune investigation found that 52% of 255 Chicago-area pharmacies failed to warn customers about combinations of drugs that could cause harm or death. Pharmacists said they felt overwhelmed by an assembly-line process at busy pharmacies where hundreds of prescriptions are filled in a single shift.

Current Illinois law doesn’t require pharmacists to take breaks, a key point the task force addressed during its 18-month examination. The recommendations are being drafted into a bill that could be considered when the Legislature resumes on Monday.

The bill would require one uninterrupted 30-minute meal break and an additional 15-minute break for any pharmacist who worked six continuous hours, according to the task force recommendation. Pharmacists who work a 12-hour shift would get an additional 15-minute break.

Task force chairman Philip Burgess told the Tribune that the panel examined why pharmacists didn’t catch dangerous drug interactions. The recommendations focused on easing the stress of heavy workloads and extra distractions such as the need to reach company quotas for giving immunizations to customers, he said.

“The whole focus is patient care,” said Burgess, a former Walgreens executive who is now on the executive committee of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. “People throughout the pharmacy profession are looking at what Illinois does.”

Teamsters Local 727, which represents pharmacists at some Chicago-area Osco and CVS pharmacies, said the proposed changes don’t go far enough. The group criticized a recommendation that would continue to allow companies assign pharmacists to 12-hour shifts, citing concerns of fatigue, hunger and a lack of focus. The union pushed for eight-hour limits, particularly at bigger chains.

Pharmacists told the Tribune in 2016 about the increasing demands from employers to work faster while adding to their duties. The task force addressed that point, saying it “strongly believes that activities that distract pharmacists from their jobs are harmful and could affect the safety of the public.”

State officials charged with pharmacy oversight believe the task force recommendations “will make working conditions more manageable for pharmacists, reducing errors and increasing patient safety,” said Jordan Abudayyeh, a spokeswoman for Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

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Information from: Chicago Tribune, http://www.chicagotribune.com

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