Amid heightened controversy over pharmacists who have agreed to fill orders for Covid treatments like ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, the state board which oversees Alaska pharmacists is clamping down on what they view as wayward professionals.
During the Alaska Board of Pharmacy’s Nov. 18 meeting, paralegal Marilyn Zimmerman urged the body to impose harsher disciplinary measures upon pharmacists who run afoul of the board’s continuing education requirements.
According to draft minutes from the meeting, board member Dr. Justin Ruffridge argued that pharmacists should face stricter fines for failing to meet education requirements. Ruffridge said such a move may be a “motivating factor” to get pharmacists to comply.
Fellow board member James Henderson agreed, adding that there should be additional fines for each hour of continuing education missed.
Board member Ashley Schaber introduced a motion to implement a continuing education base fine for pharmacists at $500 along with $100 for each credit hour missed, two mandatory audits, a consent agreement and a reprimand. For pharmacy technicians, she suggested a $125 base fine along with $25 for each credit hour missed, two mandatory audits, a consent agreement and a reprimand. Schaber’s motion passed unanimously.
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Currently, Alaska pharmacists are required to undergo 30 hours of board-approved continuing education before having their licenses renewed. Under the updated fine structure, pharmacists could now face penalties of up to $3,500 for failure to meet the requirements. The previous discipline matrix only fined pharmacists up to $2,500, most of which could be suspended by completing the education hours.
In addition to the heightened fine structure, the pharmacy board also issued a “notice” to pharmacists on Nov. 23. It states that under the 9th amendment of the PREP Act, COVID-19 therapeutics that have been “authorized, approved, licensed, or cleared by the FDA can be ordered and administered without a prescriber’s drug order.” The notice then notes that the only “approved treatments include monoclonal antibodies and remdesivir.”
Due to known side effects from remdesivir (including documented kidney failure) many Alaskans have rejected this treatment for themselves and loved ones, and have also expressed frustration at being unable to find pharmacists who will even fill doctor-prescribed orders for alternative treatments like ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine. The latest announcement by the Board of Pharmacy will likely make it even more difficult to access these treatment options.
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Editor’s note: This article was updated on Nov. 25 to clarify what pharmacists can order or administer without a prescriber’s drug order.