The Buckeye Institute: Ohio Should Enlist Pharmacists to Fight the PandemicApr 01, 2020
Columbus, OH – In a new policy memo, Policy Solutions for the Pandemic: Enlisting Pharmacists to Fight COVID-19, released Wednesday (see full text below or download a PDF), The Buckeye Institute outlines how Ohio can relieve some of the burdens on other health care workers by allowing pharmacists to test for COVID-19 and treat common illnesses.
“Ohio should enlist its pharmacists in this pandemic fight and allow them to test for COVID-19,” said Greg R. Lawson, research fellow at The Buckeye Institute. “Other states already allow pharmacists to test and prescribe for common illnesses, and Ohio should follow their example. Making full use of pharmacists now and in the future will relieve the burdens on doctors and hospitals during this crisis and it will increase access to health care in Ohio’s rural communities.”
This new policy memo builds on the recommendations The Buckeye Institute made in Policy Solutions for the Pandemic: How Ohio Can Fight the Impact of Coronavirus, which outlined immediate actions Ohio policymakers can take to ensure Ohio is ready to fight and recover from the pandemic.
Ohio has adopted a number of Buckeye’s recommendations that will boost the state’s health care system and support Ohio’s workers, small businesses, and economy. Ohio has increased telehealth access and monitoring, extended universal occupational licensing reciprocity to doctors and physician assistants, eliminated unnecessary budget commitments, instituted a hiring freeze in state government, and is enlisting medical and nursing students to support doctors and nurses fighting COVID-19.
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Policy Solutions for the Pandemic
Enlisting Pharmacists to Fight COVID-19
By Greg R. Lawson
April 1, 2020
The Buckeye Institute’s Recommendation
Ohio should enlist its pharmacists to join doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals on the front lines in the battle against COVID-19. The state should permit pharmacists to test for the virus once tests become available, and encourage them to test and prescribe treatments for common illnesses like the flu and strep throat in order to relieve burdens on other health care workers dealing with surges in COVID-19 patients.
Large scale COVID-19 testing remains in the early stages, but once available, adequate testing capacity will be critical for responding quickly and effectively. Successfully ending the COVID-19 crisis will require widespread testing in order to determine an accurate infection rate, track infections, improve treatment strategies, and implement more focused containment and quarantine measures. Pharmacists can aid that effort by administering the COVID-19 test and dramatically increasing the number of trained professionals and easily accessible locations for testing. An estimated 90 percent of Americans live within two miles of a pharmacy, making pharmacies critical access points for testing and potential treatment for COVID-19 patients especially in rural areas that likely will face general shortages of health care providers and COVID-19 treatment centers.
The Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 (CLIA) regulates most laboratories that test for human diseases. Some tests, like those for the flu and strep throat, have waivers from CLIA requirements so that they are more widely available at home or local pharmacies. Similar authorization for COVID-19 tests could allow pharmacists to alleviate strains on the overall health care system during this pandemic.
Cutting Ohio’s regulatory red tape and allowing pharmacists to test and treat the flu, strep throat, and other common illnesses will relieve pressure elsewhere in the health care system by shifting the initial point of care for these common ailments away from the doctors and hospitals currently grappling with COVID-19. Florida is the most recent of many states to let pharmacists test and prescribe medication for illnesses like strep throat and influenza. Ohio should follow suit. It also should authorize pharmacists to prescribe any future COVID-19 vaccines or medications and thereby preempt anticipated surges of COVID-19 patients in hospitals and doctors’ offices.
Pharmacies can play a vital role in Ohio’s response to COVID-19. Ohio should enlist its pharmacists in this pandemic fight and authorize them to test for COVID-19. Other states already allow pharmacists to test and prescribe for common illnesses, and Ohio should too. Making full use of pharmacists now and in the future will relieve the burdens on doctors and hospitals, and increase access to health care in Ohio’s rural communities.
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