California Enacts Landmark ‘Stop Dangerous Pharmacies Act’

California Enacts Landmark ‘Stop Dangerous Pharmacies Act’

A pharmacist prepares a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot in San Rafael, Calif., on Oct. 1, 2021. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin


Updated: 12/30/2023

A new law targeting a staffing shortage in California’s pharmacies was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom Oct. 11, making the state the first in the nation to pass such a measure cracking down on understaffed chain pharmacies as a way to reduce medication dispensing errors.
Assembly Bill 1286, the “Stop Dangerous Pharmacies Act,” authored by Assemblyman Matt Haney (D-San Francisco), grants authority to the pharmacist-in-charge to make staffing decisions and notify store management of any conditions that present an immediate risk of death, illness, or irreparable harm to customers.
The bill also gives authority to the California State Board of Pharmacy to close pharmacies that don’t resolve the conditions.
The new law also requires chain pharmacies to be staffed with at least one clerk or a pharmacy technician who is fully dedicated to performing pharmacy-related services, and authorizes trained technicians under supervision to collect specimens for lab tests, give flu and COVID-19 shots, and epinephrine.
According to Mr. Haney, recent news reports have highlighted alarming medication errors by pharmacies that may be tied to working conditions like insufficient staffing, he said during the legislative process.
He announced the governor’s decision to sign the bill Oct. 11.
“My bill AB 1286 was signed into law by Governor Newsom,” Mr. Haney posted on X, formerly Twitter. “The ‘Stop Dangerous Pharmacies Act’ is a first in the nation patient safety law that protects Californians from life-threatening medication errors at understaffed and unsafe chain pharmacies.”
The bill passed the Senate Sept. 13 on a vote of 30–9 with one senator not voting. In the Assembly, the bill passed June 1 on a 59–8 vote—with 13 members abstaining.
Major retailers like Walmart and CVS have recently announced store closures and reduced pharmacy hours due to staffing shortages.
Surveys have also shown that pharmacists and pharmacy technicians have had difficulties filling positions, citing workload and staffing shortages as reasons for leaving the profession.
The California Pharmacists Association and the United Food and Commercial Workers Western States Council supported the measure. However, the California Community Pharmacy Coalition opposed it, expressing concerns about its potential impact on patient access to pharmacies.
Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin


Jill McLaughlin is an award-winning journalist covering politics, environment, and statewide issues. She has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico. Jill was born in Yosemite National Park and enjoys the majestic outdoors, traveling, golfing, and hiking.

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