Law floated: Pharmacists could renew some prescriptions

MK who is licensed physician walks out of committee session; bill is cost-cutting initiative of Finance Ministry.

Pills 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Pills 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Two MKs who are licensed physicians angrily protested at – and one walked out of – the Knesset Labor, Social Affairs and Health Committee session on Monday after it approved for second and third readings a bill that gives pharmacists powers that currently belong only to physicians.
The bill was initiated by the Treasury to be part of the economic arrangements bill, and committee chairman Haim Katz (Likud) had to bring it to a vote in his committee even though he objected to the Finance Ministry’s rush to get it passed.
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The bill would allow registered pharmacists to renew prescriptions for drugs taken for chronic illnesses up to nine months after a physician originally prescribed them. This will reduce the number of times such patients have to visit their doctors to get prescriptions, which could reduce health funds’ costs for doctors’ visits and is thus favored by the Treasury.
But MK Arye Eldad of the National Union furiously objected and walked out after saying that it endangered public health. Pharmacists do not have access to their customers’ computerized medical files, as doctors do, and could sell them medications that might cause them harm, he argued.
Kadima MK Rachel Adatto, a gynecologist, medical administrator and lawyer by training, was the sole vote against the bill in Eldad’s absence. The committee approved the bill 5-1.
The prescriptions that could be renewed by a pharmacist include those for drugs previously prescribed by a physician who gave the patient instructions on taking them, and medications set by the health minister and approved by the Knesset committee that do not require a medical diagnosis.
In addition, the pharmacist would ask the customer some questions about his or her medical conditions and the other drugs he or she may also be taking. This would be done in a private section of the pharmacy where the customer’s personal information is not overheard, the bill states.
The pharmacist, according to the bill, “must undergo suitable training” for this in a medical or pharmacy school.
Eldad charged that the Health Ministry was cooperating with the Treasury to “endanger patients’ health in a bill that will risk their health and safety and right to medical privacy for suspect financial reasons.”
“The committee gave in to the coalition’s dictates and is ready to pass a problematic and dangerous bill as part of the arrangements law,” Eldad said. “The patients will pay the price as pharmacists want to sell more and more medications without having updated medical tests and without knowing what else the patient is taking, or documenting in his medical file the fact that he is taking the drug.”
Adatto said the committee should never have approved the bill for its final readings, as it distances the doctor from the patient and “exempts the pharmacist from responsibility, leaving many question marks.”
The Kadima MK added that the “attempts by the Treasury and Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman to harm the Israel Medical Association is the driving force behind the bill, rather than the good of the patient. It would have been proper for a bill that involves life and death to be discussed in a more responsible way and not in a rush.”
Ministry Director-General Dr.
Ronni Gamzu said the ministry indeed supported the Treasury’s proposal.
Meanwhile, the same committee approved for its second and third readings another bill that would require all physicians, pharmacists, researchers, health funds and hospitals to report on all gifts of money or goods they received that added up to at least NIS 2,500 a year. If the gifts were not reported, the individual would be liable for a fine of NIS 29,000 – twice that for an institution.
This piece of legislation was approved unanimously, and will also be part of the economic arrangements bill.
The reported gifts will be listed on the Health Ministry’s website with details on the donor and recipient, the size of the gift and its purpose; the data will also be sent to the Central Bureau of Statistics for processing.
The Health Ministry will also be required to report the gifts it receives.
Committee chairman Katz refused to set a minimum fine of NIS 226,000 for institutions that was suggested by the Treasury. The committee rejected the proposal by Adatto and a colleague to require nurses to report their gifts.