Challenging government and civil society at all levels, the COVID-19 pandemic has tested the ability of public officials, local and federal agencies, health care entities, and numerous other stakeholders to act quickly and effectively in a public health crisis.
Because pharmacists play such an important role as frontline and accessible health care providers, numerous organizations – from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the National Community Pharmacists Association – have provided emergency planning guidance.
Plus, the boards of pharmacy have risen to meet the challenge using both new and previously established emergency preparedness plans to support pharmacists’ and pharmacies’ ability to help as many patients as possible during the pandemic.
By mid-March, 48 state governors had issued declarations of emergency. The declarations enabled state agencies to maximize the tools at their disposal to combat the spread of COVID-19. For example, the California State Board of Pharmacy waived some provisions of the state’s pharmacy law or regulations to fast-track emergency care. And the North Carolina Board of Pharmacy reminded pharmacists that they had the authority to issue 30- and 90-day emergency refills under particular circumstances, this being one of them.
Nationwide, efforts by pharmacists and pharmacies include:
- administering vaccinations and providing medication counseling for the prevention and management of illness and disease other than COVID-19 to lessen pressure on the health care system;
- coordinating the administration of COVID-19 testing at pharmacies; and
- dispensing to patients in other states, such as through mail-order pharmacies, to address the increased demand.
Given COVID-19’s rapid spread and devastating impact on public health, quick responses by the government at every level – and by all stakeholders – are central to efforts to stem the disease’s advance. Pharmacists remain a crucial piece of the frontline health care response to the pandemic, and boards of pharmacy are playing a major role in ensuring the continued safe provision of pharmacy services during the crisis. NABP remains committed to assisting the boards of pharmacy as they do so.
This article was adapted from the May 2020 Innovations cover story.