State lawmakers propose close to 2,500 bills, including one that adds symptom info to Rx labels

TULSA - In anticipation of the 2013 legislative session, state lawmakers have proposed close to 2,500 different bills. Included is a bill requiring prescription labels to have symptom information for the drug being prescribed.

The bill, filed Thursday by Rep. Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City), is intended to increase prescription clarity and communication between pharmacists and patients.

Kern said she got the idea from a doctor who used to live in her district.

"This bill really benefits seniors. The idea for the bill was brought to me by Dr. Gene Kraham, who used to be one of my constituents and has his clinic, Windsor Park Medical Clinic, in my district," she said. "I thought it was an excellent idea and one that I am sure will receive the support of my colleagues."

Chris Schiller, pharmacist at Economy Pharmacy in south Tulsa, says he understands the message behind the measure. He agrees that a positive aspect could be that it helps seniors. Schiller adds it could be helpful for caretakers as well.

Schiller says there could also be negatives, especially on medications that are used to treat a range of illnesses.

"We take a normal medication that would be for blood pressure. We put on there, 'Take one by mouth every day for blood pressure.' Well, we give it to the patient. The patient goes up to the front, then they read the label and they're like, 'Hey, I don't have high blood pressure. This is supposed to be a water pill. You know, I'm retaining water.' Well then they'll come back to the pharmacy and think we didn't do something right," he said.

Schiller says that in order for any confusion to be avoided, the process of putting symptom information on prescription labels would have to start with doctors. He says doctors would need to attach diagnoses for each prescription written so as not to confuse patients when they receive their medication at the pharmacy counter.

Tulsa resident Matthew Burke, who likes Kern's idea, says parents caring for young children could also benefit from the measure.

"My last boy, I had four or five medications to give to him, so I think it would be helpful. His mom usually gives it to him, so if I could see the symptoms, it would help me a lot," Burke said.

Phyllis Rossier isn't so sure Kern's plan for prescription information is necessary. She takes six different medications each month. She calls the measure superfluous.

"The doctors give out plenty of reasons why you're supposed to take a particular drug or the other, so I'm not sure that more information would be helpful. It might be more confusing even," she said. "If they don't know what they're taking or why they're taking it, I don't think they're going to read the labels either."

Burke doesn't see anything negative about the bill.

"I don't see a problem with it. Whatever's helpful for whoever's taking it," he added.

As it stands now, the bill would provide a provision where a patient could opt out from putting their symptom information on their prescriptions.

The bill will be debated when the legislature convenes February 4.

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