Illinois introduces new pharmacy guidelines to enhance patient safety

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Under new regulations Illinois pharmacists will now be required to counsel patients when they get new medication orders filled or are seeking changes to regular prescriptions. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner recently approved the updated guidelines in an effort to improve customer safety.

Pharmacists must provide verbal counseling when dispensing drugs to new patients, giving new medication to existing patients or changing a prescription’s strength, dosage or directions for taking it. Customers can still choose to decline the counseling if they do not want it.

Pharmacists will also be required to ensure patients are aware about potentially harmful drug interactions and common side effects. They should also cover instructions such as where the medicine should be stored and how long to take it.

State officials said pharmacies were given several weeks to ensure they were in compliance before enforcement began. Pharmacies that fail to adopt the updated counseling standards could be fined or otherwise disciplined.

The measure was implemented following a Chicago Tribune investigation in December last year that revealed pharmacies often failed to caution patients about dangerous drug interactions. More than half of the 255 pharmacies tested in Chicago and other nearby areas did not provide warnings to reporters who picked up medications that could be dangerous or deadly when combined.

“When there is a breakdown in this protocol, it is imperative that the state take pro-active steps to address these gaps in care by ensuring meaningful pharmacist-patient relationship communications,” said Rauner.

Prior to the new regulations, pharmacists only had to offer to counsel customers. As a result, the majority of individuals received their prescriptions without learning about potential problems.

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