LANSING — People could pick up prescriptions at Michigan pharmacies that are not staffed by an on-site pharmacist under a bill that cleared the Legislature on Wednesday and will go to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for her signature.
The measure would allow for “remote” pharmacies, which proponents support as a way to expand access to pharmacy services and improve health outcomes in rural and underserved areas. Pharmacists at “parent” pharmacies could use a real-time audio and video link to review a prescription before it is dispensed by pharmacy technicians.
The bill won final approval on a 32-5 vote in the Republican-led Senate, with some Democrats opposed. Michigan would become the 24th state to allow remote pharmacies, joining nearby Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin, according to an analysis of the bill.
The legislation is backed by major drug distributor Cardinal Health, the Michigan Pharmacists Association, hospitals and other health groups.
A remote pharmacy generally could not be located within 10 miles of a regular pharmacy, unless it got a waiver from regulators. A pharmacist could be designated as the pharmacist in charge at three pharmacies, including two he or she could supervise remotely. A remote pharmacy could dispense an average of 150 prescriptions a day.
The sponsor, Republican Sen. Curt VanderWall of Ludington, said last year that allowing remote dispensing sites would result in better patient education, increased medication adherence, fewer instances of risky medicine combinations and better health outcomes.
“All of these lead to lower overall cost of health care but higher quality of care,” he said at a committee hearing.
Sen. Mallory McMorrow, a Royal Oak Democrat, voted against the bill. She cited safety concerns, saying she is worried that a pharmacist would not have adequate time to also oversee prescriptions at two other pharmacies and protect against drugs being diverted for illicit use.
She also noted a Michigan Campaign Finance Network report on Cardinal Health registering as a lobbyist in 2019 and pushing for the legislation. The state later sued Cardinal Health and other drug distributors over the deadly opioid epidemic.
"It doesn't feel like it actually solves what is a very real problem and has the potential to do some damage. … To me, it just feels like a way to try to sell more product," McMorrow said of the measure.
A spokeswoman for Whitmer did not indicate if she would sign the bill, saying it was being reviewed.