female doctor/pharmacist in protective suit holding and showing covid-19 tube test and sampling swab.

female doctor/pharmacist in protective suit holding and showing covid-19 tube test and sampling swab.

New HHS Ruling Proves That Pharmacists are Crucial to Combatting COVID-19

This pandemic has brought us a new normal – especially in healthcare. For example, gone are the days of driving to your doctor’s office for a simple diagnosis. Telemedicine and telehealth have become a necessity. The same is to be said about pharmacy. Pharmacists are also on the front lines of this global pandemic and have been adapting to their expanding roles and responsibilities.

As of May 20, 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a new guidance that overrides local and state barriers that prevented pharmacists from administering COVID-19 tests.

HHS said:

“We have received requests from pharmacists, pharmacies, and one trade association asking the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) whether the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act preempts state licensing laws that restrict the ability of pharmacists to order and administer COVID-19 diagnostic tests where the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has expressly authorized pharmacists, under the PREP Act, to order and administer those tests. For the reasons and subject to the limitations set forth below, we conclude that the PREP Act, in conjunction with the Secretary’s March 10, 2020 declaration, preempts any state or local requirement that prohibits or effectively prohibits a pharmacist from ordering and administering a COVID-19 diagnostic test that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized.”

Since the ruling, organizations such as National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) and National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) have come out with statements applauding the new guidance.

NACDS said:

“Pharmacies and pharmacists already are playing a critical role in helping to scale COVID-19 testing, as well as providing additional health and wellness services to patients with diverse needs in the face of this pandemic. This strong advisory opinion will go a long way in helping to remove remaining barriers to pharmacist-provided COVID-19 testing, which is essential for public health and for helping to reopen the economy for good. We appreciate Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar’s work to continue to empower pharmacies and pharmacists in their crucial service in this crisis. Pharmacies are the most accessible healthcare destinations, and they need to be fully empowered for the ultimate good of the nation, of every state, of every community, and all Americans,” said NACDS President and CEO Steven C. Anderson.

NCPA said:

“More widespread testing is the key to winning this battle. The faster we can expand testing, the sooner we can get back on our feet economically. Pharmacists are the country’s most accessible health care providers and they have been on the front lines since the beginning of the pandemic. They are well positioned to expand testing rapidly and safely.

This new guidance by HHS demonstrates that pharmacists should be able to order and provide COVID-19 testing. During this pandemic, the federal government’s position is that this emergency measure preempts arbitrary state and local rules that prevent pharmacists from serving their patients in a way the country desperately needs right now. There are 21,000 independent pharmacists across the country. Thanks to the secretary’s decision, they can now make an even bigger contribution to the war against COVID-19.”

This new guidance proves that once again, pharmacists are the most accessible healthcare professionals and that their role in this pandemic is crucial.

Learn how to relieve pharmacy workload stress here.

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