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FDA Proposal Would Allow Patients to Obtain Prescription Drugs Directly From Pharmacists

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Pharmacists may be granted new powers that doctors fear will disrupt the patient-doctor relationship. The FDA has issued a proposal that would create a third drug category that allows pharmacists to dispense drugs for nonprescription uses without the written prescription of a doctor. The American Academy of Family Physicians recently wrote a letter of opposition that points out the dangers of this proposal.

The third drug category proposal is essentially a "behind the counter" classification where patients could get drugs for common conditions without having to visit their doctor. The FDA claims that the move would cut down on the costs of healthcare by eliminating a trip to a primary physician for a written prescription. However, doctors say that the change is medically unsound and that insurance companies may not even cover the cost of drugs if patients try to circumvent the typical process of obtaining their prescription drugs.

Indeed, the methods by which patients would be able to obtain drugs in the third category is akin to diagnosing your own physical ailments by using WebMD. Under the proposal, patients would be allowed to use pharmacy kiosks or online surveys about their symptoms to obtain a prescription drug, eliminating the only professional interaction left in this entire process–actually talking to a pharmacist. In the end patients could gain access to prescription drugs for conditions such as high cholesterol, certain infections, migraine headaches, or asthma. I have to agree with the AAFP on this issue; I don't think eliminating the vital and life-saving interactions that can only occur between a patient and their doctor is the best money-saving strategy. Sorry FDA, time to re-think this move.