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Proposed bill would allow pharmacists to diagnose flu

(MGN)

A possible game changer for flu season.

A bill is moving through the law-making process that would give pharmacists the ability to diagnose the flu.

If it becomes law, people could go to the corner drugstore instead of the doctors office.

CBS12 News talked to Norbert Graber, a local pharmacist and pharmacy who supports the bill. He believes it could save lives, but some doctors say they're the only ones who should be diagnosing anything.

"From a public health standpoint, I think it's a good idea," Graber said.

Graber says every flu season, he sees a lot of confusion among his customers-- people not sure if they have a really bad cold or another kind of virus or the flu.

That's one reason of many why he supports House Bill 431, which was just introduced at the State Capitol. If it becomes law, it would give pharmacists the ability to diagnose the flu and strep throat, as well as begin treatment.

"If you think you have a regular cold and you have the flu, then you wait too long, it could be devastating," Graber said.

Graber and other proponents for the bill say this will free up room and appointments in doctors offices. It will also give people easier access to medicine could be -- in extreme cases -- the difference between life and death.

Complications from the flu can be deadly, so Graber says being able to get treatment quickly if a doctor's appointment is not available is common sense.

But CBS12 News also spoke to a doctor who thinks this is a slippery slope.

Dr. Kenneth Ness, M.D. West Palm Beach tells us:

...I and other doctors are concerned about taking the authority for diagnosis out of the realm of medicine... I would want there to be checks and balances in the system, possibly an RN involved in the process...

Some checks and balances are already written into the bill, including a pharmacist needing to have at least $200,000 dollars in insurance and a doctor recommending a pharmacist for the program.

House Bill 431 is in committee.

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