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Oklahoma proposes landmark rule to keep mailed medications safe

Patients in Oklahoma, USA, who get their prescription medications by mail may soon have better protections for the safety of those drugs than any other state. On Wednesday, Oklahoma regulators proposed the nation’s first detailed rule to control temperatures during shipping, according to pharmacy experts. 

“This is a huge step,” said Marty Hendrick, executive director of the Oklahoma State Board of Pharmacy, after the board voted to approve the rule Wednesday. “We’ve got a tremendous amount of prescriptions that get mailed to patients. … What we did today was make sure our patients in Oklahoma are receiving safe products.”

Exposure to extreme temperatures can degrade or weaken drugs, potentially changing their dosage or chemical makeup and rendering them ineffective or unsafe for patients. But while government oversight of how pharmacies store medications to keep them in defined safe temperature ranges is very detailed, an NBC News investigation in 2020 found oversight of shipping to patients — during which drugs might be exposed to heat waves and below-freezing temperatures — is largely a system of blind trust. Mail-order pharmacy is a booming business, with soaring profits for some of the nation’s largest companies last year and more than 26 million people receiving their medication by mail in 2017 — more than double the number two decades earlier, according to federal data.

NBC News found that most state pharmacy boards, the regulators responsible for pharmacy safety, did not have specific rules for how pharmacies should ship customers’ medication, few asked about this process in their inspections, and many said it was simply up to the pharmacy to ensure safe shipping. 

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Source: NBC News, 17 November 2022


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