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FDA Mulls Direct Pharmacist-to-Patient Drug Sales
Date:11/13/2007

'Behind-the-counter' dispensing means doctor's prescriptions wouldn't be needed for certain meds

TUESDAY, Nov. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Experts at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are meeting Wednesday to hear arguments on whether or not pharmacists might someday bypass doctors and directly provide consumers with certain drugs that now require a prescription.

If this plan were to go ahead, it would create a new class of drugs that could be sold by pharmacists "behind-the-counter." Such drugs might include birth control pills, cholesterol drugs and migraine medicine, experts said. Their sales would require that patients discuss these purchases with the pharmacist first.

"We believe having certain drugs behind the counter, but available only after a consultation with a pharmacist, could significantly increase patient access," Ilisa Bernstein, the FDA's director of pharmacy affairs, told the Los Angeles Times.

Wednesday's hearing marks another chapter in the behind-the-counter saga. In 2005, the agency rejected a proposal to allow the cholesterol-lowering drug Mevacor to be sold without a prescription. At the time, however, some of the FDA's scientific advisers said it might be possible for pharmacists to sell the drug if they could help select which customers bought the pills.

But the issue finds arguments both pro and con.

Several industry groups support the creation of this new method of providing medicine to patients.

"This new class could translate into increased access for patients while providing additional safeguards through pharmacist interventions that would better ensure appropriate medication use," John A. Gans, Pharm.D., CEO of the American Pharmacists Association, said in a prepared statement.

"Pharmacists' medication expertise and accessibility place them in a unique position to provide the oversight that would benefit patients taking certain products
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