By Anabety Aguilar
Our neighborhood pharmacy is more than a place that sells medicine and consumer goods. It is a primary and trusted source of healthcare information for our community. It is the primary place we seek treatment when our children have a tummy ache, an ear infection, or are battling a cold or flu.
These pharmacies help many in our community overcome language barriers, transportation concerns, and the frequent need for more understanding of the healthcare system. This unique relationship has provided countless immigrants, farmworkers, and other Latinos with the tools to keep their families healthy.
There is great concern in our community that the California Board of Pharmacy (BOP) is proposing to effectively ban our local pharmacies from flavoring medication, only allowing specially regulated “compounding” pharmacies to flavor medicine.
This proposal would devastate our Latino community and widen our state’s healthcare disparity. Those with the financial means to pay the prices at compounding pharmacies and with transportation options will be able to get their children flavored medicine, while the rest of California’s children won’t.
The BOP’s position has nothing to do with protecting public health. For over a decade, tens of millions of medications have been flavored without causing any harm to a single child. Instead, the BOP is choosing to strictly interpret language from a non-governmental organization’s standards for compounding.
For Latinos – especially those in rural communities — the BOP position will pose a significant obstacle to healthcare access.
While there are an estimated 5,000 neighborhood pharmacies throughout California that offer flavoring now, compounding pharmacies are scarce. Just look at the Alliance for Pharmacy Compounding data – compounding pharmacies are severely lacking in many Latino communities. Not only are there not enough compounding pharmacies to meet the demand of millions of Californians, but they often are located much further away than convenient neighborhood pharmacies – in many cases, 30 or more miles away.
If there isn’t a health risk, why create one?
What will be the health impact on our children when they refuse to take non-flavored medication? And what will be the financial impact on the family when parents must miss work to care for their children who are taking longer to get well?
Fortunately, there is bi-partisan legislation heading to the Governor’s desk that can avert this disaster. Assembly Bill 782, introduced by Assemblywoman McKinnor, has received unanimous support. This simple yet critical legislation will exempt flavoring from the compounding process by formalizing the BOP’s longstanding position, which has mirrored policies in 48 other states.
We are moving into a serious healthcare timeframe, as the cold and flu season, and a potential Covid outbreak, are upon us. The State of California should not be working to place additional burdens on parents during this time or any other, especially those already trying to overcome language barriers and a confusing healthcare system. The last thing any parent needs is a new set of problems that will deprive our children of the medicine they need.
Anabety Aguilar, mother of 6, grandmother of 3 and works for FoodMaxx.