5 Ethical Issues Pharmacy Techs May Face

Ethical issues are common in every area of medical care, but pharmacy ethics can have a major impact on patient access and adherence to life-saving devices and medications. Pharmacy techs have regular contact with patients and are often responsible for explaining the dosage information and side effects of different prescriptions. Preparing for possible ethical issues ensures you can perform your duties with integrity, giving your customers a better experience. Here are five ethical issues that pharmacy techs could face throughout the course of their careers.


1. Noncompliance

Pharmacy technicians will frequently come into contact with patients who choose not to follow the directions of their doctors. In this situation, you may be tempted to convince the patient to take medications as prescribed.

When a patient discontinues necessary medications due to uncomfortable side effects and decreased quality of life, it's important for pharmacy workers to help the patient understand the risks of noncompliance while also balancing the patient's quality of life. With noncompliance being an issue for more than 50 percent of patients, it can be difficult to respect a patient's right to choose over your own desire to force adherence.

2. Adhering To Medication Limits

Sometimes pharmacy techs will be faced with patients who want more than their prescribed amount of medication. This can be the result of drug-seeking behavior, increased pain levels or extenuating circumstances, such as stocking up for an upcoming trip or replacing lost or stolen pills.

Although it may be tempting to accommodate these customers, especially if they are frequent flyers in your pharmacy, there are often limits to the amount a patient can have within a set time frame.

Most pharmacy techs know that narcotics are heavily regulated and expect some form of drug-seeking, but you may be less prepared to turn away someone with legitimate pain. However, distributing medications beyond what is prescribed can result in the loss of your license and possibly criminal charges.

3. Counseling Patients On Medications

Pharmacy technicians are prohibited from counseling customers on any medications, including those that are sold over the counter. Pharmacy techs lack the necessary training to suggest any type of treatment and are encouraged to avoid offering advice of this nature. The only exception to this is relaying information that is clearly printed on the label.

Even then, it's important the customer know the information is coming from the manufacturer and not from you. Failure to follow this rule may trigger a board hearing that could result in a monetary fine and temporary or permanent loss of the technician's license.

4. Following Current Legislation

The laws regarding pharmaceuticals are subject to change with the times, and you may find you don't always agree with the new rules being proposed. However, as a pharmacy tech, you're obligated to remain compliant with any and all legislation regarding pharmaceutical storage and distribution. This not only protects your patients from being subject to outdated pharmacy practices, but it also protects your license from being affected by noncompliance.

To keep up with legislation changes, check with the pharmacist of your facility or visit the websites of relevant organizations, such as the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP).

5. Personal Bias

As the gatekeeper of life-saving medications, it's important that you never allow your personal feelings to get in the way of performing your duties. You may find yourself judging customers based on their appearance or how they speak, but that bias can never affect your job performance.

It's also unethical to refuse to fill a prescription because it conflicts with your personal beliefs. For example, you cannot refuse to dispense prescribed birth control simply because you do not believe in it. At the end of the day, you stand between patients and the medications they need, so it's important to keep your interactions consistent for every customer.

Knowing the common pharmacy ethics issues to watch out for allows you to perform your duties effectively and provide your customers with a high standard of care. This establishes trust with the patients you see often and ensures all new patients are treated with dignity and respect.

If you have a strong understanding of your ethical obligations and wish to take your skills across the country, check out the open traveling pharmacy tech positions found on AMN Healthcare and apply today.

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