Alaska Senate votes to regulate out-of-state prescription drug wholesalers

Alaska Senate votes to regulate out-of-state prescription drug wholesalers

The Alaska Senate has approved a new bill that allows the Alaska Board of Pharmacy to regulate wholesale prescription drug distributors, even if they are located outside of the state.

Senate Bill 37 passed the Senate in an 18-0 vote Wednesday and now advances to the House for consideration.

“These are the wholesale distributors that our pharmacies buy their drugs from,” said Sen. Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage and the lead sponsor of the bill.

Giessel, a registered nurse, said Alaska is one of only four states that does not require drug distributors to have a state license. After the vote, she said Alaska has one wholesaler, but pharmacies are often asked to buy drugs from wholesalers beyond state borders. She suggested a licensing procedure, administered by the Board of Pharmacy, would give pharmacists the assurance that the wholesaler is legitimate.

Estimates provided to the Senate suggest a license will cost about $500 — the exact amount will be set by the board — and about 400 are expected to be issued.

Giessel said she doesn’t expect that the board will physically send someone to each wholesaler; instead, the board will rely on third-party inspections and those conducted by other states.

SB 37 also calls for the pharmacy board to hire a full-time administrator, much as the boards of medicine and nursing already have. She suggested the demands imposed by the opioid epidemic and health care reform efforts require a full-time administrator to handle the workload. Without that assistance, the staff of the Office of Boards and Commissions must handle the work on top of their regular duties.

Black History Month resolution

In other business Wednesday, the Senate voted 18-0 to approve a resolution brought by Sen. Tom Begich, D-Anchorage, that proclaims February 2018 as Black History Month.

Health fees increase

While the Senate was working Wednesday, so too was the Alaska House of Representatives. In a 30-8 vote, the House approved a bill that would allow the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services to increase its fees for various public health services. House Bill 215, the fee increase, now goes to the Alaska Senate for consideration.

If enacted, the bill is expected to raise about $200,000 per year and reduce the amount of funding the department needs from the state’s general fund. The idea was proposed by department administrators but requires a statutory change.

A reconsideration vote has been requested by House Minority Leader Charisse Millett, R-Anchorage, but the bill is still expected to pass on reconsideration.

Bree’s Law named

The House voted 38-0 on Wednesday to formally change the name of the Alaska Safe Children’s Act to Bree’s Law. House Bill 214 now goes to the Senate for consideration.

The Safe Children’s Act was inspired by the death of Bree Moore, a 20-year-old woman murdered in 2014 by her boyfriend. After her death, the Alaska Legislature mandated all students from seventh through 12th grades be taught about dating violence and how to prevent it.

If passed by the Senate and signed by Gov. Bill Walker, the requirement will be named in Moore’s honor.

• Contact reporter James Brooks at or call 523-2258.

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