Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Update

May 28, 2020

Topics: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Illegal Online Pharmacies Exploit Vulnerable Consumers During the COVID-19 Pandemic

NABP released the May 2020 Rogue Rx Activity Report, Rogue Online Pharmacies in the Time of Pandemic: Capitalizing on Misinformation and Fear. The report highlights how illegal online pharmacies use the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) to expand operations and prey on consumer fears.

A summary of the report’s key findings and other information is available in an NABP press release.


Letter Signed by 19 Senators Calls for Increased Funding to Treat and Prevent Substance Use Disorders During Pandemic

Citing reports that the opioid crisis may be worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, 19 senators have signed a letter urging congressional leadership to support increased funding to address substance use disorders (SUDs) as the pandemic continues. Specifically, the letter requests an additional $2 billion in funding, which would be allocated to states and local officials through Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment block grants. The grants would allow the funds to be directed toward areas where the needs are most significant.

“The current pandemic has dramatically altered the SUD prevention, treatment, and recovery landscape in this country, and the needs of patients and communities are clear. The nature of the COVID-19 public health emergency has increased social isolation and stress while decreasing access to treatment and harm reduction resources, with significant repercussions for the SUD and OUD [opioid use disorder] crises. Already, early signs from around the country indicate a higher volume of emergency calls linked to illicit drug use, as well as reported overdoses and deaths,” wrote the senators in their letter. “New Hampshire SUD treatment and recovery providers are also concerned about the potential for increases in overdose deaths during the pandemic.”


Timothy J. Shea Announced as DEA’s New Acting Administrator

Timothy J. Shea has been announced as the new acting administrator of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Shea has served as interim United States attorney for the District of Columbia since February 2020, and has also served on Attorney General William Barr’s Advisory Committee. He has served as associate deputy attorney general, assistant US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and chief of the Public Protection Bureau in the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office.

“I am pleased to appoint Tim Shea as DEA Acting Administrator,” said Attorney General Barr in a press release. “A highly regarded public servant, Tim’s long career in both federal and state government and extensive experience in law enforcement well-equips him to lead the premier drug enforcement organization in the world. As this country continues to struggle with the evolving drug crisis, Tim’s commitment to combatting drug trafficking and violent crime will be instrumental in furthering the important work of DEA.”

Shea will be taking over from former acting administrator Uttam Dhillon, who has served in that position since 2018.


Pharmacist Charged With Hoarding and Price Gouging N95 Masks

A licensed pharmacist has been arrested in New York on charges of exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic and violating the Defense Production Act by hoarding and price gouging N95 masks. Richard Schirripa of Fort Salonga, NY, also known as “the Mask Man,” allegedly spent over $200,000 accumulating the masks, and then selling them at inflated prices – charging up to $25, often selling them out of his car, according to a US Department of Justice press release. In addition to these charges, Schirripa is accused of multiple other crimes, including making false statements, health care fraud, and aggravated identity theft.

During a conversation with an undercover agent, Schirripa justified the high prices by saying, “We’re in a time of emergency and shortage,” but added, “when you have something no one else has, it’s not a high price.”

In late March 2020, NABP and several licensing and regulatory organizations issued a joint statement on the COVID-19 pandemic that expressed support for efforts to protect the public health during this crisis and emphasized a common duty to ensure access to care to those who need it.


June 9 FDA Drug Topics Webinar to Demo CURE ID App For Reporting Novel Uses of Drugs

A new Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Drug Topics webinar will soon be available as part of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, Division of Drug Information’s series of educational webinars targeting the needs of all health care providers and students. The webinar, titled “FDA Drug Topics: CURE ID: Capturing Clinician’s Experiences Repurposing Drugs to Inform Future Studies in the Era of COVID-19,” will be held June 9, 2020, at 1 PM (EST), and is intended for physicians, physician assistants, nurses, pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, certified public health professionals, other health care professionals, and students. The webinar will demonstrate CURE ID – a mobile app and web platform developed by FDA and National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences/National Institutes of Health that gives the global clinical community the opportunity to report novel uses of existing drugs for patients with difficult-to-treat diseases, including COVID-19. The webinar will also explain the features and goals of the platform.

Additional information, including how to register and an overview of the webinar and related continuing education credits, is available on the Division of Drug Information Webinars section of the FDA website.