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NJ issues ‘Best Practices for Pharmacy Security’ that exceed state law

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo

PUBLIC SAFETY: State authorities this morning issued a “Best Practices for Pharmacy Security” to help prevent drug theft and diversion at retail pharmacies.

“Stolen prescription drugs, like drugs obtained through fraudulent prescriptions, inevitably make their way into the hands of those seeking to abuse them,” state Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa said.

“This list of security practices, developed in close coordination with stakeholders from both government and industry, represents the best steps pharmacists can take to protect their inventory from diversion and ensure that medication is dispensed only according to a valid prescription,” he said.

Published by the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs and State Board of Pharmacy, “Best Practices for Pharmacy Security” include specific recommended measures above and beyond those currently required by state law.

“While every pharmacy may not be able to adopt all of these security recommendations, we are encouraging them to move toward implementation of these best practices,” said DCA Acting Director Eric T. Kanefsky.  “Incidents of theft at New Jersey pharmacies are not common, but when they do occur they often involve significant diversion of controlled dangerous substances which pose a grave risk of addiction, overdose, and death.”

Besides preventing losses due to robbery, burglary and employee theft, the recommendations are aimed at identifying and curbing doctor-shopping and prescription fraud.

The DCA began work on creating the list by holding a Pharmacy Security Summit in January 2012, and a follow-up summit in September.

Participants included representatives of chain and independent pharmacies, healthcare systems, drug manufacturers, academics, and law enforcement agencies such as the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the State Commission on Investigation. Members of the Board of Pharmacy members and DCA Enforcement Bureau also participated.

The process included “an assessment of the various logistical and personnel concerns of large and small pharmacies, as well as the needs of pharmacies in New Jersey’s urban, suburban, and rural areas,” as well as “an assessment of today’s realities in the areas of crime and the illegal diversion of prescription drugs,” the DCA said in a news release this morning.

During 2012, New Jersey pharmacies reported nine armed robberies, seven incidents of break-ins or customer theft, and 24 incidents of theft by pharmacy employees.

There are 2,128 pharmacies in New Jersey.

You can find the entire list here: Best Practices for Pharmacy Security

Highlights include:

· New Jersey pharmacies are required by regulation to maintain a monitored security system.  The Best Practices more specifically recommend a system with a cellular backup in case of power outages or attempts to disable the system.  They also recommend video surveillance in certain areas of the pharmacy; physical barriers; height markers – to help identify suspects – at exit doors; and other basic physical security measures.

· Pharmacies should maintain a perpetual inventory of all drugs identified as having a high potential for abuse or a high street value.  The inventory should include specific information, logged each time a quantity of the drugs is received or dispensed.  Pharmacists should verify the inventory’s accuracy once per month, with a manual review of all records related to certain drugs.  If the pharmacy employs more than one pharmacist, the same pharmacist should not conduct the monthly verification count during consecutive months.

· If a pharmacist has a substantiated concern that a specific doctor may be indiscriminately prescribing Controlled Dangerous Substances, the pharmacist should report the concern to the Board of Medical Examiners and the New Jersey Prescription Monitoring Program.

· If a pharmacist suspects a prescription may be forged or altered, he or she should call the doctor’s office to confirm the prescription.  The pharmacist can ask the doctor’s office for a faxed confirmation of the prescription.  Before calling, the pharmacist should independently verify the doctor’s phone number and check whether it matches the number on the prescription.

· If a pharmacist is unfamiliar with a patient who picks up a Controlled Dangerous Substance prescription, the pharmacist should require photo identification at the time of purchase.  Photocopies of the identification should be stapled to the original prescription or scanned into the computer profile.

· Written prescription blanks should not be kept where consumers can reach them or see confidential patient information.

· Drugs classified as Schedule II and Schedule III Controlled Dangerous Substances should be kept in a safe or locked refrigerator.  Only licensed pharmacists should be permitted to access the safe.  Will-call bins for Schedule II and Schedule III CDS should be located in the pharmacy’s secured prescription area, within the pharmacist’s unobstructed view.

· Pharmacies should have a secure area for receiving packages known to contain CDS.  Pharmacies should receive such shipments only during posted store hours, when a pharmacist is present to accept and sign for the delivery.

· All pharmacists should register with the New Jersey Prescription Monitoring Program, and regularly access it when filling prescriptions in order to identify possible doctor-shopping or abuse.  The NJPMP, maintained by the Division of Consumer Affairs, is a database that tracks the prescription sale of Controlled Dangerous Substances and Human Growth Hormone.

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