SACRAMENTO, Calif. In urgent tones, a Fresno, Calif.-based independent pharmacy owner urged the California Board of Pharmacy today to delay for at least two years the state’s controversial plan to adopt a new electronic pedigree mandate.
That plan—which has spawned a backlash among concerned chain and independent pharmacy operators and some distributors in the state—will force all pharmacy retailers and wholesalers in California to document the origin and movement of every prescription drug they sell or distribute.
Dave Wilcox, owner of Northwest Medical Pharmacy in Fresno, testified before the pharmacy board’s Enforcement Committee on behalf of the National Community Pharmacists Association and its members. Addressing a hearing on the state’s plan to implement an e-pedigree and track-and-trace system by Jan. 1, 2009, Wilcox asked the board to postpone the requirement until at least Jan. 1, 2011, to give pharmacy operators time to adapt to what could be a costly undertaking in new technology.
“To get right to the point, the Jan. 1, 2009, deadline is impossible for independent pharmacy to achieve,” Wilcox warned in his testimony. “This is largely due to circumstances far beyond our control, such as lack of standardization, cost considerations and pending Federal proposals. For e-pedigree to be a success, the implementation deadline must be extended at least 24 months.”
As was made clear in the National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ RFID/Track and Trace technology summit in October, Wilcox’s view is shared by other sectors of the pharmaceutical community, including drug manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers. Their consensus, in the words of an NCPA spokesperson, is that “logistical challenges require more time to be successfully overcome.”
Wilcox told California pharmacy board members that upgrading to the track-and-trace technology required for an e-pedigree system will cost a retail pharmacy from $10,000 to $40,000 per store, and time to put the system into seamless practice. “Without a uniform technology standard, pharmacists will be forced to purchase and maintain multiple track and trace technologies—readers, scanners, software and the like,” he said. “Chain pharmacies have stated that once the plans of upstream trading partners are known, it will take an additional 15 to 18 months to implement E-pedigree. For the small businesses in the independent pharmacy sector lacking the resources of larger chains, the consequences will be even worse.”