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Dear Advocate…
Pharmacies


Dear Advocate,

My mother’s nursing home recently told me I had to use a certain pharmacy because they were the only place who "bubble packed" prescriptions. Their pharmacy charges at least three times the amount my mother’s pharmacy charges. Is this legal?

Sincerely,
Overcharged in Oxnard

Dear Overcharged,

No! The nursing home is violating California law, Health & Safety Code §1320, which prohibits nursing homes from requiring residents to purchase drugs, or rent or purchase medical supplies or equipment, from any particular pharmacy or other source.

The law permits nursing homes to require a resident’s pharmacy to comply with policies and procedures reasonably necessary for the resident’s care or to comply with state or federal rules.

If controlled substances are prescribed, the facility can require they be dispensed in containers, such as a pill box or counting tray, that are suitable for being periodically counted by the facility. Although the facility may prefer "bubble packing," it cannot be required. Controlled substances are medications that have high potential for abuse, such as tranquilizers and narcotic pain medications.

Ask the nursing home about its policies on packaging of medications and see if your mother’s pharmacy can meet them.

If the facility imposes unreasonable requirements or restricts your choice of pharmacy, you should file a complaint with the California Department of Public Health.