Two good prescriptions for long-term care pharmacies

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Long-term care pharmacies have generated some hot news lately.

Probably the biggest story of the week was the Drug Enforcement Agency's decision to relax rules regarding prescription orders. In a reversal of its prior position, the agency has decided to let nurses communicate physician orders for controlled drugs to pharmacies. But it's not a free pass: Doctors must designate nurses as prescribing agents to follow through on these orders.

While nursing home providers and pharmacists have long called for this reversal, it was still a surprising development. Over the last 18 months, the DEA actually increased its enforcement activity in Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin. Pressure from the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists no doubt helped to influence the DEA's change of heart.

The group Quality Care Coalition for Patients in Pain, led by the ASCP, commissioned a study that showed drug delays could have an adverse effect on residents. The study was called “Patients in Pain: How the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Rules Harm Patients in Nursing Facilities.”

The DEA's move is good for residents. It's also a professional coup for nurses, who, as I wrote about earlier this week, are finally getting some long overdue credit for their central role in patient care. 

Medication models

There's another important story about long-term care pharmacies. A new seven-day distribution role for medications, as required in the healthcare reform, has caused many long-term care pharmacies to modernize the way they distribute medicines to nursing homes. Jason Spears, a McKnight's guest columnist, addressed this issue this week. (See the home page for his column.)

The delivery methods are centralized dispensing from a local or regional pharmacy or facility-based dispensing. These distribution channels present a variety of ways to provide and store medications. Punch cards, medication cabinets and remote dispensing are just a few options nursing homes can choose from.

These new innovations show just how far long-term care pharmacy distribution technology has advanced. That's progress for long-term care as a whole.


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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.