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Executive Summary

STATE EFFORTS TO PREVENT MD OFFICE DISPENSING WERE DEFEATED in two states recently, repackaging firm executive James Roberts told the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) Pharmaceutical Conference, Sept. 8. "In this past state legislative season," Roberts reported, "there were some five efforts . . . three in California and two in Maryland . . . to prevent office dispensing in those two states. I am proud to report to you that those efforts to stop office dispensing failed." Roberts is president and CEO of Direct Pharmaceutical Inc. As originally proposed, a Maryland senate bill (830) would have prohibited physician dispensing in Maryland unless an MD's office was outside a 10-mile radius of the nearest pharmacy. However, the version of the bill that passed the Maryland senate March 20 will permit physician dispensing beginning January 1987, provided a physician obtains approval from the Maryland Board of Medical Examiners. No action has been taken in California. At the beginning of the January 1986 session, the legislature discussed action to require ambulatory care centers to obtain a state pharmacy board permit to dispense drugs. Roberts portrayed MD office dispensing as a sign of a "free market system." He said he visited the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to discuss the anti-competitive restraint of trade issues involved in one group trying to maintain a closed market. Roberts contends that "the FTC was and remains interested." When asked how the tie between the profit motive and physician dispensing serves the best interests of the patient, Roberts replied that the "physician has always had lots of decisions at his power" and has handled them well. He added that the "marketplace will take care" of abuse and overprescribing. During a presentation following Roberts, HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Robert Windom expressed a cautious view of MD dispensing. "I understand we're hearing more about the possibility that physicians will be dispensing drugs in their offices," Windom observed. "I think [the issue] needs some serious concern and consideration. But, if it does occur, I just hope that it will not detract from [physicians] being able to deliver quality care," the HHS assistant secretary said.

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