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The recent death of an Idaho woman who took large quantities of a drug sent through the mail the wrong drug to treat her medical condition points up the wisdom of Utah's tightening of mail order drug laws.

The Idaho victim took about 200 blood-thinning pills, instead of a steroid compound, and died of a cerebral hemorrhage.Although a local pharmacist might have made a similar mistake, the fact that the patient had no local contact regarding the drug could have been a factor in her death.

Utah pharmcists have argued that lack of ability to counsel patients who have purchased drugs in quantity from an out-of-state company has compromised the health and safety of Utahns.

Changes in Utah's Pharmacy Practices Act will give this state better control over mail order prescriptions while safeguarding the right of Utahns to obtain drugs through these sources if they choose.

The amendments to the pharmacy act will become effective April 25. They require that mail order pharmacy businesses obtain a Utah license to vend their products in this state.

The revisions, passed by the 1988 Legislature, correct some basic problems with mail order drug purchasing and also will allow the Division of Professional Licensure in the Department of Business Administration to better track drugs to ferret out abuses. The division has had no method of determining if patients were illegally receiving drugs from several sources out of state.

Required quarterly reports from out-of-state pharmacies that fill prescriptions for Utahs will provide a clear record for tracking. Allowing the sale of controlled drugs across state lines without such records is an open invitation to drug abuses.

Utah patients will be further protected by a provision that requires out-of-state pharmacies to advise them in writing of substitutions made in their prescriptions.

Although protecting the financial interests of Utah pharmacists was not a primary concern of the legislation, the Utah association says $8 to $10 million has been going out of the state through mail-out prescriptions. Putting the out-of-state companies on a equal footing in the matter of licensure and inspection helps to even out the competition.