2020 Michigan Pharmacy Laws Reflect Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

In response to the coronavirus pandemic that surged in early March 2020, the Michigan senate passed multiple laws to make access to healthcare easier during the crisis. One of the main legislative points to this bill allowed pharmacists to use their professional judgement and dispense up to a 60-day emergency supply of any non-controlled prescription that could result in a significant effect on the patient’s well-being if not taken. The bill continues with multiple subpoints and criteria that the pharmacist must meet to dispense this 60-day emergency supply. Some of these points include informing the patient that the prescription was dispensed under this law and informing the prescriber through writing within a reasonable time of all emergency refills given.

This Michigan law mirrors similar laws passed in Pennsylvania in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Pennsylvania will allow up to a 30-day emergency supply on non-controlled medications instead of the previous 72-hours. These medications must also significantly affect the patient’s well-being if not taken. When deciding on whether a medication is significant enough, the pharmacist may consider health, quality of life, and preventative measures. There are many medications that would not directly affect the patient’s health and therefore could be controversial, but when the patient’s quality of life is considered, most non-controlled medications could be dispensed under this emergency law.

The Michigan senate bill also grants pharmacies the ability to temporarily operate in a location that is not designated on their pharmacy license. This law states that sterile drugs may not be prepared beyond low-risk preparations; products must be for immediate patient administration. The law also states that a pharmacist may dispense and administer a drug to treat an individual with COVID-19. The dispensed drug must follow protocols set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Health, or the chief medical executive within the department of health and human services. While many drugs have been granted emergency use authorization (EUA) for COVID-19, at the time this article was written, only remdesivir is FDA-approved.

The next piece of legislation was passed to set standards for virtual work. The intention of these laws was to limit personnel at pharmacies to ultimately reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19. The senate approved remote supervision of student pharmacists by their preceptors to avoid delays in graduation. Pharmacists could also oversee pharmacy technicians remotely using continuous, real-time video. This camera system must let the pharmacist visually identify all markings on tablets and capsules. The pharmacist must have access to all relevant patient information to be compliant will this law. This is a major step for Michigan, as pharmacists were only recently allowed to conduct remote pharmacy practices as of April 2020. This new piece of legislation added even more clarity surrounding remote pharmacy. Michigan joins 23 other states legally allowing remote pharmacy. This technology improves the efficiency of the pharmacy without the added cost of possible COVID-19 spread. Legislation also let out-of-state pharmacies in good standing conduct business in Michigan, and the out-of-state pharmacy is not required to designate a pharmacist-in-charge for the pharmacy. The exception to this law is that the out-of-state pharmacy must not deliver controlled substances into the state.

Michigan enacting laws revolving around the legality of virtual pharmacy rotations were a major step for the state. The state has never taken a stance on whether this style of learning was appropriate or not. At the start of the health crisis, many hospitals and retail pharmacies were cancelling students’ experiential rotations. With no clear guidance, this led to a frenzy of students scheduling new rotations on short notice and others having to delay graduation. This law (taking effect December 30, 2020) gave pharmacy preceptors the official approval to conduct their rotations in this fashion. Virtual rotations were a tough transition for both preceptors and the students, but when needed, they provided the proper experience while keeping everyone as safe as possible.

The legislation passed by the Michigan senate impacted many different aspects of pharmacy practice. Despite covering various pharmacy operations, they all had the focus to increase accessibility to healthcare, reduce unnecessary staff in the workplace, and provide clarity to pharmacy students and preceptors. The senate acted in a reasonable time frame to address these issues. Their actions, along with many other states, have shown that pharmacy can change quickly to meet the needs of patients, colleagues, and students.

Leave a Reply