The LA Times recently reported that California pharmacies are making almost 5 million medication errors a year. If signed by California Governor Gavin Newsom, AB 1286 creates first in the nation regulations to crack down on what has become a nationwide problem of understaffed chain pharmacies making dangerous medication errors.

Stop Dangerous Pharmacies Act heads to governor’s desk

Assemblymember Matt Haney’s AB 1286, also called the Stop Dangerous Pharmacies Act, has passed out of the Legislature after months of negotiations with chain pharmacies, labor groups, and regulators and is now headed to the governor’s Desk.

AB 1286 creates first in the nation regulations to crack down on what has become a nationwide problem of understaffed chain pharmacies making dangerous medication errors. If the bill is signed into law, California will become a national leader in pharmacy safety. Corporate chain pharmacies will be required to report all medication errors as well as provide baseline pharmacy staffing rules to ensure that California pharmacists are receiving the support they need as they fill prescriptions, and give injections.

“Shockingly, there’s no centralized reporting mechanism for medication errors,” Haney said. “There should be transparency, and the Board of Pharmacy should have the authority to respond to protect patients. That’s not happening right now.”

The LA Times recently reported that California pharmacies are making almost 5 million medication errors a year. The Board of Pharmacy — the state entity tasked with regulating pharmacies — can only estimate that number because currently, pharmacies are not required to report medication errors. While the direct causes of each medication error is currently unknown, nearly 91 percent of pharmacists in a recent survey conducted by the California Board of Pharmacy report that staffing wasn’t high enough to provide adequate patient care. And more than 83 percent of pharmacists reported they didn’t have sufficient time to provide appropriate consultations to patients to make sure they understand how to safely take their medications.

Medication errors can have serious repercussions for patients leading to severe illness, permanent disability, and death. California law prohibits most types of healthcare providers from being employed by corporations, however, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are an exception to that rule. Decisions about staffing and safety are currently made by management of a chain store rather than the pharmacist who has undertaken years of education to safely provide sometimes dangerous medications.

AB 1286 gives licensed pharmacy staff more autonomy over staffing and working conditions so they can provide better patient care and services for Californians. It also provides pathways for temporary pharmacy closure in the rare and dangerous situation where a pharmacist feels the work environment has been compromised, is life threatening to patients, and that store management has not worked to abate the issue.