Pharmacy technicians work side-by-side with pharmacists verifying prescriptions, preparing medications, handling the day-to-day operation of the pharmacy and working with clients. Pharmacy technicians are well-educated and knowledgeable and in almost every state must be certified by the board of pharmacy. They are highly professional and well-spoken with superior communication and interpersonal skills. Even though the pharmacist oversees the pharmacy technician's work, the technician has life-and-death responsibilities and makes decisions daily that impact the lives of others. Consequently, adhering to highest standards of conduct, behaviour and ethics is an absolute.
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The seriousness of the pharmacy technician's role is underscored by Emily's Law, passed in Ohio in 2009. In 2006, a toddler undergoing chemotherapy at a hospital was given a salt solution prior to her final treatment. The pharmacy technician mixed the solution with 23 per cent salt rather than the prescribed 1 per cent. The child subsequently died. Originally, a national law was proposed but did not pass; however, the Ohio law requires pharmacy technicians to pass a competency test as well as a criminal background check. Most states already require criminal background checks for pharmacy technicians as well as certification by the state board of pharmacy. Nonetheless, errors can cost lives and it is just such situations that the code of ethics seeks to prevent.
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Importance of Code of Ethics
The Institute for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians set forth a code of ethics that encompasses the responsibilities of the pharmacy technician while also protecting their right to due process. The code is aimed at qualifying the pharmacy technician's solemn duties and responsibilities and the fundamental importance of maintaining patients' health and safety. The code's 10 points promotes practical and common sense standards of professionalism and integrity.
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First Seven Points
The first seven points of the pharmacy technician's code of ethics reinforce the importance of patient safety and confidentiality, adherence to the law and support and respect for the pharmacist and fellow workers. Additionally, it emphasises the value and necessity of continuing education to stay abreast of new techniques, trends and medications.
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Remaining Three Points
The last three points of the code of ethics hit specific issues including only promoting medications and medical devices that have been approved, never discrediting the pharmacy or the profession or behaving unprofessionally and always seeking to positively promote the pharmacy technician profession.
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In 2002, a dozen American pharmacy-related organisations and associations endorsed a white paper on pharmacy technicians and their role in the rapidly changing pharmaceutical industry. The paper called for standardisation in pharmacy technician education and training, a more clearly defined role for the pharmacy technician, an enhanced definition of the scope of pharmacy technician credentialing and accreditation, and the creation of a proper regulatory framework. Today, some of these objectives have been or are being addressed; however, until a national system for education, conduct and regulation for pharmacy technicians is established, the code of ethics serves as a primary and principled guideline.