Pharmacy Technician Frequently Asked Questions

What are the physical attributes of a good pharmacy technician?

Pharmacy techs are on their feet all day. The job requires them to either stand or move about the pharmacy for the better part of their shift, so suffice it to say it is a good idea to be in at least reasonably good physical condition to consider this line of work. Being in good physical shape is properly befitting of anybody who represents any aspect of the healthcare industry as it is representative of putting into practice modern understanding of prevention through fitness.
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A certain degree of manual dexterity is also important. Handling small pills or capsules and counting them accurately requires at least reasonably good dexterity and vision.

How are situations handled where prescriptions are suspected to be fraudulent or counterfeit?

There are potent pain killers like vicodin, percoset, and oxycodon that are stocked at retail pharmacies among the many relatively benign pharmaceuticals like common antibiotics or insulin for diabetics. These pain killers, many of which have addictive properties, have been recognized as effective depressants and are in high demand among illegal drug users. The street value of these drugs can be exponentially more than the retail cost for filling a legitimate prescription which has in effect made them a commodity in the illegal drug community. This has created a situation where drug seekers, as they are called by pharmacists and pharmacy techs, make frequent attempts at acquiring these drugs by illicit means. One pharmacy tech we spoke with described dealing with drug-seekers as a daily occurrence and a standard part of the job. Most often drug-seekers will present a counterfeit prescription. Nearly as often they will root through pharmacy dumpsters for a legitimate prescription that they can doctor the recipient name and date on in hopes of being able to get it filled.

Pharmacy techs must be vigilant to ensure prescription drugs aren’t provided to those without a valid prescription. Pharmacy techs quickly become familiar with the way a doctor’s script should look. In the case of a neighborhood pharmacy, techs may even become familiar with a local doctor’s pattern of prescription-writing and penmanship. Counterfeit or fraudulent scripts are identified by certain red flags including: Inc on the prescription differing from the norm, quantity of the prescribed drug being unusually high, instructions not reading correctly, or physician’s penmanship or signature diverging from the norm. Pharmacy techs must make this judgment call based on their expertise and will often contact the physician for verification.

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If the script is discovered to be fraudulent, the police are immediately called to intercept the perpetrator as they pick-up the prescription. One pharmacy tech we spoke with told us that perpetrators usually catch on and don’t return to make the pick-up. Though the drug-seeker isn’t caught in these instances, the pharmacy tech has done their due diligence by seeing to it the drugs don’t leave the pharmacy in the wrong hands.

What is a DEA?

To be allowed to stock, dispense, or prescribe any legal controlled substance or pharmaceutical requires a federal Drug Enforcement Administration license, commonly called a DEA. All pharmacies and their staff of pharmacists operate under a specific DEA number. Even in the case of pharmacy chains that have thousands of locations nationwide, each individual facility will have its own independent DEA license which all the pharmacists working for that particular facility operate under.

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How are pharmaceutical recalls handled?

Pharmaceuticals can be recalled for a number of different reasons, and are handled in accordance with various levels of specific protocol depending on the severity of the issue and the likelihood of harm to recipients. A pharmaceutical can be harmful in one of a couple of ways: Either the pharmaceutical company manufactured the drug with too little of the active ingredient which could short-dose a patient whose health depends on the proper dosage, or too much of an active ingredient was added to the compound making the drug toxic. Recalls are most often done voluntarily by the pharmaceutical company with the assistance of the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). On occasion the FDA has to force the drug company’s hand and demand a recall. In either instance it is the responsibility of the drug company to handle the recall, cover the expense of recalling and replacing the defective products, while providing the FDA with status reports on the success of the recall. There are three different recall classifications:

Class I recalls are the most serious. These are enacted in the event that a product is found to be defective or unsafe and poses potential risk of harm or death. In the case of a class 1 recall all supplies of the drug are immediately pulled from pharmacy shelves. Customers who have received these drugs are immediately notified and told in no-uncertain terms to discontinue use and return the product to the pharmacy. These recalls require the assistance of the FDA and are often coupled with media attention to provide adequate warning to the public.

Class II recalls are mid-level in terms of their urgency. A class two recall is enacted if there is little risk of harm. These recalls are handled by removing the existing stocked supply of a drug, and will on occasion require the products that are already in the hands of consumers to be recalled. In the event that consumers are contacted to return their defective prescriptions, a suitable alternative is provided to them at no cost.

Class III recalls are the least severe and are enacted when a product violates an FDA standard for labeling or manufacturing but doesn’t pose any health risk to the recipient. This would include things like a defective container, the wrong color dye used in the drug, or an abnormal taste. These recalls require existing supplies to be pulled from shelves and returned to the manufacturer, but rarely involve public notification.

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