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The Pharmacist's Essential Role in Public Health Crisis

With the strain on our healthcare system during this COVID-19 pandemic, pharmacists are positioned to ensure the public has access to necessary medications and other healthcare services.
Pharmacists have an extremely important role during this COVID-19 pandemic. As stated by the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations (NASPA), “Pharmacists are the most accessible healthcare providers and the first touchpoint of patient engagement with the healthcare system. In fact, 90% of all Americans live within five miles of a community pharmacy.” With the strain on our healthcare system during these heightened times, pharmacists are positioned to ensure the public has access to necessary medications and other healthcare services.

Pharmacists and pharmacy staff are a part of the essential healthcare workforce. Many pharmacies have taken steps to minimize both patient and staff exposure risk by closing their lobbies, leaving home delivery, drive-through, or curbside pick-up as alternatives. These pharmacies may allow patients to purchase over-the-counter items through these mechanisms. Patients should contact their pharmacy to find out what policies are in place during this pandemic. Please be patient with your pharmacist and pharmacy staff as they work to ensure the best outcomes for you and your community.

Pharmacists are working with their patients to determine if they should continue receiving one-month (30-day) prescriptions or increase to a 90-day supply. Most insurance companies in Iowa, including Iowa Medicaid, will allow 90-day fills to encourage social distancing and minimize visits to a pharmacy.  However, drug shortages and stress on the pharmaceutical supply chain are concerns and may be exacerbated. In the event of drug shortages, pharmacists have the training to perform ‘therapeutic interchange' to ensure patients receive their necessary medications.

Additionally, with proper personal protective equipment (PPE), pharmacists are well-positioned to contribute to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic through access to immunizations and test and treat services. When a vaccine becomes available, pharmacists will be on the front lines to administer it. Pharmacists can also provide ‘test and treat' services to test for influenza (‘flu') and group A streptococcus (‘strep throat'). Test and treat for flu and strep throat can lessen the burden COVID-19 is having on our healthcare system during this critical time.

IPA's Executive Vice President & CEO, Kate Gainer, stated, “This is a critical time for the entire healthcare community. As part of that community, pharmacists have the opportunity to provide care and services across the state of Iowa. With many unknowns in the weeks ahead, education, communication, and deliberate action will be key. Pharmacists are ready to step up and take action to help their patients, their communities and the healthcare system.”

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