APhA House of Delegates considers urgent COVID-19 business at virtual session

Under normal circumstances, the APhA House of Delegates (HOD) would have held its first session at the 2020 APhA Annual Meeting & Exposition in National Harbor, MD—but 2020 is not a normal year. COVID-19 may have canceled APhA2020, but the APhA HOD went on anyway. The body considered multiple proposed statements and committee reports through electronic balloting and convened a virtual session to consider and take action on important and timely business. Policy issues surrounding COVID-19 took center stage.

HOD business

HOD—which comprises representatives from state pharmacy associations, APhA membership academies, affiliated organizations, recognized pharmacy organizations, and ex-officio groups—develops official APhA policy affecting the pharmacy profession and patient care.

Joey Mattingly, PharmD, MBA, PhD, Speaker of the House of Delegates, opened the session with remarks wishing the best of health to all during the COVID-19 pandemic and reviewed the voting processes for this first-of-its-kind virtual session.

New APhA Board of Trustees members and academy officers, who will assume office at the end of the HOD session, recited their oaths of office, administered by outgoing APhA President Brad Tice, PharmD, MBA, FAPhA. APhA President Michael D. Hogue, PharmD, FAPhA, FNAP, starting today and serving until the 2021 APhA Annual Meeting, also took this oath of office and delivered remarks recognizing the significance of the role of APhA President, especially during a pandemic like the one the nation is facing today.

Speaker Mattingly will deliver his full Speaker's report in writing after the virtual session to leave time for the HOD's priority issues. He acknowledged the service of APhA CEO Thomas E. Menighan, BSPharm, MBA, ScD (Hon), FAPhAHOD secretaryfor whom this is the final HOD session as APhA CEO. Speaker Mattingly then recognized the efforts of the leaders and members of HOD committees.

Proposed policy

Up first for consideration were two urgent new business items (NBIs), both concerning pharmacy personnel involvement in the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and a proposed policy on protecting pharmaceuticals as a strategic asset—an issue especially relevant during public health emergencies, like the COVID-19 pandemic playing out now.

The Whole Number statements under policy topic #1, “Protecting Pharmaceutical as a Strategic Asset," were approved by HOD in advance of the session:

  1. Assert that the quality and safety of pharmaceuticals throughout the supply chain are crucial for U.S. public health and safety.
  2. Advocate for pharmacist involvement in efforts to ensure availability, quality, and safety.
  3. Call for the development, implementation, and oversight of enhanced and transparent protection of the safety and quality of pharmaceutical ingredients and manufacturing processes.
  4. Call on the U.S. to take action against bad actors.
  5. Call for redundancy and risk mitigation strategies to ensure reliable access and safety of pharmaceuticals and medical products.
  6. Advocate for regulatory and market incentives to bolster access to safe, high-quality pharmaceutical and medical products.
  7. Call for timely, accurate, and transparent information and notification about shortages and other threats to public health and safety.
  8. Encourage pharmacy providers, health systems, and payers to coordinate response plans to drug shortages and supply disruptions; encourage pharmacy providers, health systems, and payers to develop coordinated response plans to drug shortages and supply disruptions, including the use of therapeutic alternatives.
  9. Support federal legislation engaging pharmacists, other health professionals, and manufacturers in the development of a national essential medicines list with funding mechanisms to ensure consistent availability of these products.
  10. Recommend pharmacist involvement in the delivery of public messages about pharmaceutical supply and quality issues.

All statements were approved as written.

Urgent business items

The first urgent NBI addressed the protection of pharmacy personnel during public health emergencies.

The motion for urgent NBI 1 proposed a Whole Number statement urging pharmacy personnel employers and practice settings to “implement protection and control measures and procedures, per consensus recommendations when available, and to provide access to protective gear and cleaning supplies that ensure the safety of pharmacy personnel and that of their family members and the public.” It passed with an amendment. 

A second proposed statement under urgent NBI 1, Whole Number 2, would urge federal and state government officials, manufacturers, distributors, and health-system administrators to “recognize pharmacists and pharmacy personnel as ‘frontline providers’ [who] should receive appropriate personal protective equipment and other resources to protect their personal safety and support their ability to continue to provide patient care.” The proposal passed as written.

Urgent NBI 2 concerned the safety of and access to medications during public health emergencies.

The amended Whole Number 1 policy statement under NBI 2 urged government authorities to hold pharmaceutical manufacturers, wholesalers, pharmacies, other pharmaceutical supply distributors, and providers “accountable to state and federal price gouging laws in selling those items to patients, pharmacies, hospitals, and other health care providers during times of local, state, or national emergency.” The amended statement was approved.

Urgent NBI 2's Whole Number 2 urged government authorities to “aggressively enforce laws and regulations against adulterated products and false and misleading claims by entities offering to sell pharmaceutical and medical products” to health care providers and consumers. The statement was approved as written.

A third urgent NBI, introduced after a suspension of the rule for submission deadline, condemned the inappropriate and unethical prescribing and ordering of medications and medical supplies for personal use or for use by colleagues or family members. The items under NBI 3 were referred to the APhA Board of Trustees to be further refined. The Board will issue a statement upon completion.

The session wrapped with open statements, as well as a "virtual standing ovation" for Menighan, Speaker Mattingly joked. The session adjourned at 5:10 pm EDT.