Coronavirus News Roundup: Latest Clinical Data, FDA and CDC Guidance, Pharmacist Safety

April 24, 2020

Here's the roundup of the latest coronavirus-related news.

The United States has surpassed 860,000 confirmed cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). This week, as health care workers across the board worked tirelessly to flatten the curve, researchers offered their latest data, pharmacists remained on the frontlines despite feeling unprotected from the virus, pharmacy groups advocated for COVID-19 testing authority, and independent pharmacies reported the financial strain caused by the pandemic.

Here’s a roundup of the latest coronavirus-related news:

Pharmacy Groups Urge for COVID-19 Testing Authority for California Pharmacists

The California Retailers Association (CRA) and National Association for Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) are urging California to remove remaining legal barriers on pharmacists for COVID-19 testing.

In a letter to the Director Kimberly Kirchmeyer from the California Department of Consumer Affairs, the groups requested immediate authorization of COVID-19 testing by pharmacies to meet the high demand.

Community pharmacists are in a prime position to provide such testing, especially as the FDA has authorized several point-of-care COVID-19 tests. According to the letter, to date, 19 states have already authorized pharmacists to provide COVID-19 testing.

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USF Study Reports Pediatric COVID-19 Cases Higher than Expected

Children are being affected by coronavirus in higher numbers than expected, according to a study published by the University of South Florida (USF) and the Women’s Institute for Independent Social Enquiry (WiiSE) in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice.

The findings further illuminated the potential for health care system strain in the United States in the face of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Investigators from USF and WiiSE estimated that for each child who needs intensive care to treat COVID-19, an additional 2381 children are infected with the virus. The results followed study reports from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which incorporated data from 2100 children in China with COVID-19.

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CDC Guidance for Community Pharmacies During COVID-19

All pharmacy staff-along with everyone entering the pharmacy-should wear face masks, according to new guidance from the CDC.

The CDC’s “Guidance for Pharmacists” also says that pharmacies should postpone and reschedule some routine preventive services, such as adult immunizations, since they require face-to-face interaction.

“This guidance applies to all pharmacy staff to minimize their risk of exposure to the virus and reduce the risk for customers during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a vital part of the healthcare system, pharmacies play an important role in providing medicines, therapeutics, vaccines, and critical health services to the public. Ensuring continuous function of pharmacies during the COVID-19 pandemic is important,” CDC said.

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Genetic Variability in Immune System May Affect Susceptibility to COVID-19

A study published in the Journal of Virology suggested that individual genetic variation could explain the differences in immune responses to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The study results showed that genetic variability across the 3 major histocompatibility complex class I Genes – human leukocyte antigen A, B, and C – may affect an individual’s susceptibility to and severity of COVID-19.

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FDA Authorizes First COVID-19 Test with At-Home Sample Collection Option

The FDA has authorized the first diagnostic test with a home collection option for COVID-19 for the Laboratory Corporation of America (LabCorp).

LabCorp has planned to make Pixel by LabCorp COVID-19 Test home self-collection kits available with a physician’s order in most states in the coming weeks. The molecular test allows samples to be collected from a patient’s nose through a designated self-collected kit containing nasal swabs and saline. After self-collection, the sample is mailed in an insulated package to a LabCorp lab to be tested.

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NIH Panel Develops COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines

A panel of experts convened by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has published treatment guidelines for COVID-19 providing clinical recommendations for a number of therapeutic options that are currently under investigation.

Importantly, the guidelines emphasize that, even though there are several therapies being tested as potential treatments, no drug has been proven to be safe and effective for treating COVID-19. Investigational antiviral agents and host modifiers and immune-based therapies were included in the guidance.

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NPTA Survey: Pharmacy Technicians Feel Unprotected from COVID-19

The majority of pharmacy technicians working in chain/mass/grocery-based retail settings feel “unsafe, unprotected, uninformed, and ill-equipped” in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to survey results released by the National Pharmacy Technician Association (NPTA).

The survey compared the workplace conditions and opinions of pharmacy technicians in the United States working in various practice settings.

Chain drugstores, mass-retail and grocery-store pharmacies showed particularly shocking disapproval numbers from pharmacy technicians. Overall, a mere 26.1% of pharmacy technicians working in chain/mass/grocery-based retail pharmacies felt safe at work, compared with 63.8% of independent pharmacy workers and 52.8% of hospital pharmacy workers.

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NCPA Survey: Independent Pharmacies Report Financial Strain from COVID-19 Pandemic

Independent pharmacies are being overwhelmingly impacted by COVID-19 pandemic, according to results from a survey conducted by NCPA.

Eighty-eight percent of community pharmacy owners reported intentions to apply for COVID-19 federal aid, such as provisions from the CARES Act, that has been made available for small businesses, according to the survey.

The survey, which gauged pharmacy economic health during the COVID-19 pandemic, received a total of 511 responses from independent pharmacy owners and managers across the country from April 9 through April 14, 2020.

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Exposure Types and Transmission of COVID-19 in Health Care Settings

Health care providers (HCPs) are at an increased risk of acquiring COVID-19 as a result of exposures to patients with the virus.

A new study published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report examines the effects of unprotected, prolonged patient contact, along with certain exposures, on the risk of HCPs becoming infected with SARS-CoV-2.

“This investigation presented a unique opportunity to analyze exposures associated with COVID-19 transmission in a health care setting without recognized community exposures,” the study authors wrote. “Describing exposures among HCP who did and did not develop COVID-19 can inform guidance on how to best protect HCP.”

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