CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has approved regulations that require pharmacists to counsel customers who seek to fill prescriptions for new medications or need changes to longtime prescriptions.

The higher counseling standard comes after a Chicago Tribune investigation in December revealed pharmacies frequently failed to warn customers about severe drug interactions. Pharmacies have been required only to offer to counsel customers.

"On a daily basis, we rely on pharmacists to serve as our medication experts — to safeguard the health and wellness of ourselves and our loved ones," Rauner said.

The new rules require pharmacists to engage in "verbal counseling" before giving medication to a new patient or filling a regular prescription with changes in dosage, strength or directions.

The rules aim to improve customer safety. Customers will have the right to refuse counseling.

Terry Horstman, spokesman for the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, said state officials are giving pharmacies a couple of weeks to get into compliance before Illinois begins enforcement. Failing to follow the new counseling requirement and other standards could lead to fines or other discipline.

"Their extensive knowledge and skill set serve a vital role in providing prescription drug counsel, while ensuring we are not exposed to harmful drug interactions," Rauner said. "When there is a breakdown in this protocol, it is imperative that the state take pro-active steps to address these gaps in care by ensuring meaningful pharmacist-patient relationship communications."

National Association of Boards of Pharmacy Executive Director Carmen Catizone said the stricter counseling standard is "needed and long overdue."

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Information from: Chicago Tribune, http://www.chicagotribune.com