Pharmacists call new drug system unsafe
A valley medical group has installed computer software to allow its physicians to dispense medication to patients without sending them to a pharmacy, a move that some local pharmacists don’t like.Alpine Medical Group, which has offices in Aspen and Basalt, has installed a “point-of-care” medicine dispensing system that can fill prescriptions on site. Patients will be able to see their doctor and pick up their prescriptions in one visit.A nurse reached at the Aspen branch refused to comment on the software system.For the Basalt office, the installation of the system is one phase in a practicewide improvement project, said spokeswoman Laura Pray. “This is one way we hope to make this a center of family medicine excellence,” she said. “This med[icine] dispensing system will make it more convenient and safer for patients to receive their medicine.”As an example of improved safety, Pray said physicians will now be alerted by their computer if a chronic diabetes patient has forgotten to fill his or her insulin prescription.The Alpine Medical Group, headed by Drs. Glen Kotz in Basalt and David Borchers in Aspen, was for years contracted to Aspen Valley Hospital. Pray confirmed yesterday the physicians’ contract with AVH will not be renewed this fall.Pharmacists in Aspen and Basalt have expressed concern over the system, saying it will hurt local pharmacies and increase the chances of drugs being dangerously mixed by patients.”On an economic level, this machine will dispense the fastest-moving, most popular drugs,” Carl’s Pharmacy head pharmacist Jerry Pearce said. “That’s our bread and butter. They are skimming the cream off our profits.”But what I’m really concerned about is that it’s cutting the pharmacist out of the loop. Who’s going to screen for interactions or allergies?”Tad Anderson of Basalt’s Hometown Pharmacy expressed similar concerns.”We catch interactions about 10 times a day,” Anderson said. “Most patients get all their prescriptions filled by their local pharmacy. If their dentist has prescribed one thing, we’ll probably know about it. Without a pharmacist on site, the Basalt physicians won’t know.”Rodney Diffendaffer, who runs Tom’s Pharmacy in Aspen, said he expressed his concerns to the Aspen branch of Alpine Medical Group and that the group agreed to remove the system.The Aspen branch refused to comment.Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org– see Pharmacists on page A6– continued from page A1
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