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Ethical Issues in Pharmacy Care

Today’s pharmacists are part of medical teams that treat more complex diseases and conditions than ever before. Patients are encouraged to discuss drug regimens with pharmacists, and turn to them for the kind of support they expect to receive from physicians, nurses, and others who provide medical care.

The American Pharmacists Association (APhA) updated its code of ethics in 1994. The code emphasizes respect for patients and other health care professionals (American Pharmacists Association).

In 1996, the American Association of Pharmacy Technicians approved a similar code of ethics for pharmacy technicians separate from the pharmacists’ code (Strandberg, 2003). The pharmacy technician code mirrors the pharmacists in terms of respecting patients and other providers, and adds additional guidance that addresses the unique aspects of the technician position and regulations addressing patient confidentiality passed earlier in the decade:

  • Pledge to assist and support pharmacists in safe, efficacious, and cost-effective distribution of health services and resources
  • Refusal to assist in distributing medications or devices that are not of good quality or that do not meet legal standards
  • Respect for patient confidentiality and pledge to adhere to disclosure guidance

(Strandberg, 2003)

Professional cooperation is extremely important in pharmaceutical care. In an era and a profession with fierce competition, pharmacists must put patients first, even if it means sending them to other, competing pharmacies where medication is more affordable or instantly available (Strandberg).

In recent years, a pharmacists’ rights movement has sprung up over the ethics of dispensing medications that induce miscarriage. Some pharmacists who oppose abortion have vowed to not dispense such medications, and some have refused to dispense birth control pills or devices as well. This has led to protests from patients and physicians who argue that their medical and emotional needs are set aside by religious views. (American Pharmacists Association).

APhA supports patient access to properly prescribed medications. It also supports pharmacists’ “right of conscience.” However, APhA also states that pharmacists who refuse to dispense a prescription are responsible to ensure that patients do get prompt access to medications from another source (American Pharmacists Association).

Learn more about how you can get started on the path to a Pharmacy Technician career. Visit our Web site or call us at 1.866.502.2627.

Sources:
Strandberg, Kenneth. “Essentials of Law and Ethics for Pharmacy Technicians.” Essay in Tindall, William, and Millonig, Marcia K., Pharmaceutical Care: Insights From Community Pharmacists. Boca Raton, Florida: Chapman & Hall/CRC Press, 2003. Web. 18 October 2010.

American Pharmacists Association:
“Code of Ethics for Pharmacists.” 27 October 1994. Web. 18 October 2010.
“Conscience & Care: APhA Responds to Prevention Article.”  7 July 2004. Web. 18 Oct. 2010.

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