Pharmacy organizations representing the interests of all pharmacists in the United States have released a joint set of policy recommendations critical to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to put an enormous strain on our nation’s healthcare system and the supply of qualified healthcare providers is increasingly limited. With 90% of Americans living within 5 miles of a community pharmacy, pharmacists are positioned to serve on the front lines and are able to help. They are medication experts, providing patient care in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, community pharmacies, long-term care, the medical home, and physician offices.
Action on the following four policy areas will empower pharmacists to fully and effectively support our nation’s COVID-19 response and help to ensure patients get the treatment they need.
The pharmacy profession urges the COVID-19 Task Force and appropriate agencies to adopt these and other recommended measures immediately:
- Authorize Test-Treat-Immunize: Allow pharmacists to order, collect specimens, conduct and interpret tests and, when appropriate, initiate treatment for infectious diseases including COVID-19, flu, strep, and interpret and discuss options with patients. Expand current state pharmacists’ immunization authority to include all FDA approved vaccines, including the forthcoming novel vaccine for COVID-19, for all indicated populations.
- Ease Operational Barriers to Address Workforce and Workflow Issues: Allow pharmacists and pharmacy technicians with valid licenses to operate across state lines, including via telehealth. Authorize pharmacists and pharmacy staff to conduct routine pharmacy tasks remotely as necessary (i.e., prescription data entry and script verification), including those licensed outside the state.
- Address Shortages and Continuity of Care: Authorize pharmacists to conduct therapeutic interchange and substitution without physician authorization when product shortages arise. The FDA should identify drugs that are in, or at risk, of shortage and work with firms to extend expiration dates. Require manufacturers to provide the FDA with more information on the causes of shortages and their expected durations and allow public reporting of this information.
- Reimburse for Services and Remove Barriers: Provide coverage for services delivered by pharmacists if within scope of practice and covered for other healthcare providers. Remove the specific day’s supply requirement from co-pay waivers for essential, life-sustaining medications to ensure continuous access when medication is in shortage or needs to be rationed. Remove restrictions and cover home or mail delivery. Assure access to testing, treatment, and pharmacists services for patients without adequate access to services.