Community pharmacies are ideally positioned to support reopening efforts and recovery plans amid the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.
Rapid coronavirus disease 2 (COVID-19) testing, contract tracing, and preparing for vaccines and treatments are the 3 key priorities as the United States reopens, NACDS said in a new report.1
In the report, Pharmacies: A Vital Partner in Reopening America, NACDS outlined 3 key operational considerations for President Donald J. Trump’s Administration, Congress, and governors as they develop reopening and recovery plans. The organization also urged that additional steps should be taken to ensure that pharmacists and pharmacies are fully utilized to support this national effort.
“Community pharmacies should remain a critical centerpiece of the COVID-19 pandemic response and future mitigation strategies,” NACDS said. “Pharmacies continue to collaborate with state and local public health officials on pandemic surveillance and sharing critical information to inform state health and economic decisions. As our nation moves forward, we proffer that federal and state governments should enhance engagement with pharmacies across the response continuum from scaling community testing to executing a national pandemic immunization plan.”
The report identifies further policy barriers that must be removed; urges the inclusion of pharmacist-provided testing in state Medicaid programs; encourages states to facilitate partnerships among pharmacies, local businesses and public health officials; and describes coverage and reimbursement issues that are essential to scale and sustain testing programs.
Preparing now for an impending vaccine is critical, NACDS said, citing a CDC study that found retail pharmacies help to vaccinate 80% of the population 7 weeks sooner during a pandemic than otherwise would be possible.
The CDC, National Institutes of Health, or other appropriate entities should develop national protocols for health care providers-including pharmacists-to initiate COVID-19 treatment when appropriate.
“States should proactively plan ahead by authorizing pharmacists to initiate treatment as recommended by the CDC,” NACDS said. States should also take actions to authorize pharmacists to provide treatment and COVID-19 pandemic vaccines to citizens when appropriate, aligned with the CDC’s pandemic plans that rely on pharmacies to scale the direct distribution of forthcoming vaccines.
“Accessibility remains a pharmacy hallmark, with 90% of Americans living within 5 miles of one,” NACDS said in a press release.2
The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) should preemptively recommend the forthcoming FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccine at their June meeting, according to NACDS. “The Committee could take 1 action that would have the effect of permitting pharmacists in half of the states to provide a forthcoming COVID-19 vaccine,” NACDS said.
In addition, although a COVID-19 vaccine is currently covered under Medicare Part B, steps must be taken to ensure coverage and provider reimbursement by state Medicaid programs and private payers.
Notably, NACDs said coverage for COVID-19 testing and provider reimbursement is essential to ensure patients have convenient and affordable access to testing. The organization also recommends that legislation be enacted to provide emergency pharmacist provider status in Medicare Part B for COVID-19 and flu testing, ”in order to reinforce pharmacist authority and provide clear reimbursement for pharmacist services.”
NACDS is urging the creation of a national program through private and public partnerships that creates a single access point for contact tracing data. The organization stressed the importance of existing contact tracing models related to hepatitis C and HIV.
1. Pharmacies: A Vital Partner in Reopening America. NACDS; May 2020. Accessed May 18, 2020. https://www.nacds.org/pdfs/government/2020/Pharmacies-Reopening-America-COVID-19-NACDS-May2020.pdf
2. NACDS Issues New COVID-19 Report on Reopening America. News Release. NACDS; May 15, 2020. Accessed May 18, 2020. https://www.nacds.org/news/nacds-issues-new-covid-19-report-on-reopening-america/.