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pharmHere’s one of those instances of political tinkering that’s ripe for the sage advice, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”   Congress is considering legislation to make our prescription drug supply chain more secure, and there are surely things we can do to make the U.S. prescription medication delivery system safer and more efficient.  But a specific provision in the House version of this proposed law (H.R. 1919, Section 8) would do just the opposite.

As currently written, this proposed law would eliminate the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) requirement that says printed information – on things like proper drug dosage, side effects, potential drug interactions and risks — must accompany all prescription medication, replacing it with a provision for electronic-only information.   You won’t get any argument from me that the internet is a valuable tool for disseminating this type information to those who dispense dangerous prescription drugs, but Congress really needs to summon up a little common sense before mandating electronic-only communication.    

Think about the diversity of settings where health care practitioners dispense prescription drugs.   From pharmacies and cruise ship infirmaries to EMT transports and rural nursing homes, internet access and reliability vary considerably.   Do we really want to legislate a system where vital patient information is available to almost every health care practitioner?  That’s just not good enough for me – especially if I happen to get sick in one of those undeserved locations and need a prescription!

We need a safe, reliable system where vital prescription drug information is available to all health care professionals and their patients 24 hours a day, seven days a week.   One of the most effective ways to make this happen is for important printed information to accompany a drug through the product distribution system from the manufacturer to the health care professional … just as it does today.   

 H.R. 1919 passed the House of Representatives on June 3.  A similar bill is coming up for consideration  in the Senate, but without the paperless provision.   The two measures will then go to a Conference Committee as legislators work to merge them into what may eventually be voted into law. 

Kathi Rowzie is a Two Sides guest blogger and a sustainability communications consultant with The Gagliardi Group in Memphis, Tennessee.

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