How Will Pharmacists Play a Role in Reopening America? | Citizens Against Government Waste

How Will Pharmacists Play a Role in Reopening America?

The WasteWatcher

Discussions grow on how and when Americans will return to work.  Those deliberations are occuring within the Trump administration, among state officials, and public health experts.  Next Tuesday, the president plans to announce a separate task force, composed of business leaders and doctors, which will focus on re-opening the country.  What will be used to weigh their decisions is where the nation is with respect to the pandemic and how COVID-19 tests and therapies will be used to safely return citizens back to work.

Test kits continue to be manufactured and distributed to healthcare providers for the diagnoses of COVID-19.  Serology tests are just beginning to be developed and will be vitally important to determine who had the disease, built up antibodies, and either never got sick or are fully recovered.

Existing drugs are being tested to see if they can serve a therapeutic role and new drugs are being researched for COVID-19.  The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America stated that as of April 8, there are 310 clinical trials testing therapies and vaccines.

On April 8, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that pharmacists could order and administer COVID-19 testing tests that have been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  HHS said in the guidance, “Pharmacists, in partnership with other healthcare providers, are well positioned to aid COVID-19 testing expansion.  Pharmacists are trusted healthcare professionals with established relationships with their patients.  The vast majority of Americans live close to a retail or independent community-based pharmacy.  That proximity reduces travel to testing locations, which is an important mitigation measure.  Pharmacists also have strong relationships with medical providers and hospitals to appropriately refer patients when necessary.”

The HHS guidance is certainly meant to provide more flexibility and speed up healthcare delivery, but states regulate pharmacies and there are differences among them on what pharmacists can do with respect to providing vaccines and administering tests.  Whether states are able and want to expand the roles of their pharmacists is a decision that will have to be made soon.

The April 10 Inside Health Policy discussed the role pharmacists could play and the barriers they face when more diagnostic and serological tests are distributed and when a vaccine is approved.  If a recommendation by the White House back-to-work task force includes testing to be conducted to determine how the country moves forward, who and how many people would be tested and where would they be tested?  How would a vaccine be distributed?  Federalism and the role the states and Washington play will determine how smoothly this occurs.

The article includes an interview of American Society of Health-Systems Pharmacists Vice President Tom Kraus about state variations in pharmacy regulations.  For example, when it comes to vaccines, there are “different degrees of authority, including general authority issued through a standing order or state protocol, patient-specific authority and prescriptive authority.”  Some states may only allow the flu vaccine to be administered by a pharmacist or may have limitations on the age of the recipient of a vaccine or on a specific vaccination.

For example, there are three states that do not allow pharmacists to administer all vaccines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  These states are New Hampshire, New York, and West Virginia.

The National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations offered four action items that could be taken to help relieve the strain on the healthcare system and that pharmacists should be utilized because they are trained professionals, easily accessible, and are medication experts.  The four recommendations include:

  • Allow pharmacists to test, treat, and immunize for infectious diseases, like COVID-19 and expand immunization authority.
  • Allow pharmacists and pharmacy technicians with valid licenses to cross state lines and utilize telehealth.
  • Allow pharmacists that are providing direct patient care to manage therapeutic substitution of drugs, in coordination with the physician, when there are shortages and have the FDA identify potential drug shortages and work with manufacturers to address the issue.
  • Allow direct reimbursement for services delivered if within scope of practice and if services are delivered by other healthcare providers.

The states, and the federal government, will need to take into consideration the differences in pharmacy regulations across the country, breakdown unncessary barriers, and find the best way to get America back to work.

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