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No one knows what COVID-19 will do to the future of international supply chain and to drug manufacturing. Allowing Americans to keep large quantities of their prescription medications could even cause shortages of some drugs. But the DEA’s current concern is making sure Americans have access to their necessary medications while the country practices social distancing.

[Update: The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the coronavirus bill. More to come.]

Despite intense lobbying by a coalition of pharmacy stakeholders, the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, March 25, 2020, passed a coronavirus legislative package that did not include pharmacist provider status language. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), the third legislative package in response to COVID-19, is aimed at mitigating the economic effects of the pandemic. The pharmacy stakeholder coalition will continue working toward inclusion of language that recognizes pharmacists and their services in Medicare Part B in future coronavirus legislation and ultimately makes that recognition permanent.

CVS Health and Express Scripts are putting in place measures to prevent hoarding of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine and other treatments being tried against the new coronavirus. Walgreens Boots Alliance has placed limits on prescriptions of hydroxychloroquine and the related malaria treatment chloroquine.

On March 22, FDA issued new guidance on required testing for the Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) program. Although all REMS requirements remain in effect, the agency said it will not take enforcement action against health care providers or sponsors for failing to adhere to REMS requirements for certain laboratory testing or imaging studies during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

In a recent study published in Circulation, researchers found that one in eight patients with atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) in the United States did not adhere to their medications because of cost.

CVS Health and Walmart are among about a dozen large companies looking to hire nearly 500,000 Americans in coming weeks as they manage a surge in demand for household products. "There are too many customers for our staffing to handle most of the time," said Cody Clark, who works at Brookshire's Food & Pharmacy in Tyler, TX.

China, South Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan have demonstrated that the coronavirus can be turned back with furious efforts. For the United States to repeat their successes will take major coordination and money from the country's leaders, and trust and cooperation from citizens.

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.

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.

Physicians worldwide have been administering a variety of medicines to find something to help COVID-19 patients, including two malaria drugs, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine. Physicians in China, South Korea, and France have reported these medications appear to help, although they have not gone through large clinical trials for this use yet.