New Law Says: Docs? Print!

Sigmund Freud’s handwriting; a prescription for the
Wolf-Man from the Library of Congress online archive.

There’s a new handwritten prescription ban in Washington that has doctors and pharmacists both a touch puzzled. According to this new law, doc’s must print. But that printing can be block printed, written letters or computer printed. Typewriters are also valid, although when’s the last time you saw a doc office with a typewriter? This legislation leaves a lot of folks wondering “who decides what legible handwriting is, anyhow?” No cursive? Not even my mother’s Catholic school perfect penmanship? What if they have my blockprint handwriting, poor souls? How about that smudgy inbetween? And if something isn’t legible, and it’s a necessary-for-life drug, is a pharmacist going to have to play bad cop and refuse to fill the prescription?

The pharmacists interviewed in the Seattle Times article all said they were planning on ignoring the legislation and doing what they always do: call the doctor’s office if a prescription is unclear, or doesn’t make any sense. And frankly, this seems to be the most sensible idea of all.

I do have to wonder how easy it’s going to be to forge the printed prescriptions. My own doctor has been printing all but schedule 2 prescriptions for a few years now, and it’s occured to me a few times that it’s not the most secure method of prescription writing ever. Recently, they switched to printing schedule 2 prescriptions on special paper which is both a funky colour and appears to have some sort of watermark built in.

The legislation itself should make significant strides in reducing patient death due to misfilled prescriptions. I think my main problem with this legislation is that it puts pharmacists in the uncomfortable position of having to police doctors to follow the law. I just think it’d be best if they mandated a target date for all doc offices in the state to move to printed prescriptions – remove the ambiguity and necessity of the pharmacist playing cop. Because as I’ve said elsewhere, that’s not their job, either.

1 Comment so far

  1. Aaron B. Hockley (unregistered) on June 23rd, 2006 @ 3:30 pm

    And when a pharmacist tells someone “sorry I can’t fill this, it’s in cursive” who gets punished… the doctor, or the patient, who needs their medicine?

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