A pharmacist in a pharmacy

NACDS addresses AMA criticism of pharmacy’s role in COVID-19 antivirals program

NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson reacted to the AMA’s criticism of the role pharmacy-based clinics could play in the ‘test to treat’ antivirals program.

The National Association of Drug Stores president and CEO Steve Anderson swiftly reacted to the American Medical Association's statement regarding the 'test to treat' initiative for COVID-19 antivirals that was mentioned by President Joe Biden and released by the Biden administration after the State of the Union address. 

“The pharmacy-based clinic component of the test-to-treat plan flaunts patient safety and risks significant negative health outcomes," the AMA said in a statement. 

“The AMA’s criticism of the role of pharmacy-based clinics in the new ‘test-to-treat’ COVID antivirals program is extremely unfortunate, but also extremely predictable," Anderson said in a statement. “The effectiveness of COVID antivirals depends on patients’ receiving them shortly after the onset of symptoms. When it comes to the patient journey for these medications, access and equity are critically important, and pharmacy-based clinics, pharmacies and pharmacists have essential roles to play.”

[Read more: NACDS report highlights role local pharmacies, pharmacists play in patient-centered services]

“As currently constructed, the ‘Test to Treat’ Initiative for COVID antivirals relies on traditional prescribers — including nurse practitioners and others in the pharmacy-based clinic setting. It relies on pharmacists to dispense the medications, as is appropriate given their extensive education and qualifications,” Anderson said. “If anything, the patient journey for these medications would benefit further from the inclusion of pharmacists as prescribers, consistent with the Ninth Amendment to the current declaration of the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act, or PREP Act.”

He also went on to explain how the AMA’s criticism of pharmacy-based clinics in the prescribing function, and by extension pharmacists in the dispensing function, seems to continue a “just say no” approach.

“Up to this point in the pandemic, the AMA has lobbied against pharmacist-provided COVID testing and has questioned pharmacist-provided COVID vaccinations. Nonetheless, pharmacies, pharmacists and pharmacy teams have contributed to the effectiveness, equity, accessibility and convenience of the pandemic response on behalf of the American people,” Anderson said. 

[Read more: NACDS, Johns Hopkins report: Pharmacies play a vital role in achieving health equity]

Anderson also shared government statistics, which include: 

  • Pharmacies provide more than two of every three COVID-19 vaccine doses;
  • More than 30% of children aged 5 to 11 years old who have received their COVID-19 vaccination have done so at a pharmacy;
  • Half of pharmacy COVID-19 vaccination sites are located in areas with high social vulnerability; and
  • Seventy percent of pharmacy testing sites are in areas with moderate to severe social vulnerability.

“The access provided by pharmacies — the face of neighborhood health care — is sorely needed; it in no way replaces physicians but rather provides access that is otherwise impossible in the healthcare delivery system today,” Anderson said.

A Morning Consult poll commissioned by NACDS was also cited, which found that a majority of adults support pharmacists offering COVID-19 antiviral medications and prescribing the medications. Respondents gave pharmacies the highest ratings for ease of access among healthcare destinations tested. Among entities working to address COVID-19, only hospitals received a higher rating than pharmacies.

[Read More: Michigan Gov. Whitmer signs bipartisan bills lowering prescription drug costs]

“That is not to say that policymaking should be pursued with polls; yet it should take into account the proven ability of healthcare professionals and access points to meet the needs of Americans with trust, convenience, reliability and equity,” Anderson said. 

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