APhA coronavirus watch: APhA and other pharmacy groups call for expanded pharmacist services amid COVID-19 pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to strain the U.S. health care system and limit the supply of quality health care providers, APhA, along with the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations, National Association of Chain Drug Stores, Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association, National Community Pharmacists Association, American Society of Consultant Pharmacists, American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, American College of Clinical Pharmacy, National Association of Specialty Pharmacy, College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists, and Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education, released a joint set of policy recommendations to enhance patient care during the ongoing health crisis.

The pharmacy organizations emphasized that pharmacists are medication experts trained to provide patient care and counseling in a multitude of settings, including community pharmacies, hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, medical homes, and physician offices. On top of that, 90% of Americans live within 5 miles of a community pharmacy, making pharmacists among the most accessible health care providers during the pandemic.

Among the recommended measures, the pharmacy organizations urge the COVID-19 Task Force and appropriate agencies to authorize pharmacists to order, collect specimens, conduct, and interpret tests for various infectious diseases, including COVID-19, influenza, and strep. This act would include expanding state pharmacists’ authority to administer all FDA-approved vaccines, including the forthcoming novel vaccine for COVID-19.

They also recommend that pharmacists and pharmacy technicians with valid licenses be allowed to operate across state lines, including via telehealth. Pharmacists and pharmacy staff should be authorized to perform routine tasks, such as prescription data entry and script verification, remotely as necessary.

Amid potential product shortages, the pharmacy organizations are calling for pharmacists to conduct therapeutic interchange and substitution without authorization from a physician. They urge FDA to continue identifying and reporting drugs that are in or at risk of shortage, as well as working with firms to extend drug expiration dates.

Pharmacists should be reimbursed and covered for services they perform that are within their scope of practice and are typically covered for other health care providers, say the organizations. They are also calling for the removal of access barriers, such as the specific day’s supply requirement from copay waivers for essential medications. This will ensure that patients continue to have access to their life-sustaining medications if they are in shortage or need rationing.

In addition, the pharmacy organizations are urging the appropriate agencies to remove restrictions on access and coverage of home or mail delivery of medications and to ensure that all patients will have access to testing, treatment, and pharmacist services.