Are pharmacists handing too much of their dispensing role to pharmacy technicians or assistants?

Last week, pharmacy stakeholders expressed concern that pharmacy was “devolving” too much of its primary dispensing role to non-pharmacists.

In his editorial in the Journal of Pharmacy Practice and Research, Professor Chris Alderman said “it seems that enthusiasm for participation in the work of dispensing prescriptions is waning among contemporary practitioners”.

But once out of the hands of pharmacists, the “traditional pharmacy-specific skill set” might appear not to be essential to deliver these job functions, he warned.

And in a related article, Danielle Stowasser, program director, Electronic Medication Management Program, Metro North Hospital and Health Service, Brisbane, wrote that handing medication supply services to pharmacy technicians or nursing staff could ultimately lead to a situation where there is no pharmacist oversight of these processes.

The articles sparked a lively yet thoughtful discussion among AJP readers, with several readers discussing the nature of the dispensing process itself and how it interlocks with counselling and professional services such as HMRs: is dispensing itself simply the “pick and stick” process, or just one facet of a wider clinical service?

Several readers suggested that moving the technical side of the dispensing process away from pharmacists diminishes this wider role; another hinted that large script volumes may already diminish the role in some pharmacies.

Has the pharmacy profession distanced itself too much from the technical side of dispensing? We’d like to know what you think. Tell us in our poll below, and please feel free to continue the discussion in comments.