Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Update

April 10, 2020

Topics: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Nearly 3,500 Pharmacists and Technicians Seek NABP Passport, a New Service Supporting the Association’s COVID-19 Response

As of April 9, 2020, NABP has received 3,468 requests for an NABP Passport. Launched in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis, this new service supports member state boards of pharmacy in processing requests for temporary and emergency licensure to pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. NABP Passport allows those seeking temporary or emergency nonresident licensure to submit state-specific requests for an NABP Passport through their NABP e-Profile. NABP then conducts the necessary license verification and disciplinary history review at no cost to the individual or the boards of pharmacy.

Pharmacists must have at least one existing license to apply for the Passport and pharmacy technicians must have a license/registration or hold a certification from the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board or Exam for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians. Interns can also apply for the Passport if the state license/registers interns and the state has included interns in their emergency declarations. NABP Passport for facilities (including pharmacies and other supply chain businesses) is slated to launch next week.

Approved NABP Passports are provided to the state boards of pharmacy for final approval in a secure system, NABP e-Profile Connect. States may opt to recognize the NABP Passport as a temporary license to practice in their state, or as a prerequisite to temporary, emergency licensure. Currently, 19 jurisdictions indicated they will make use of this new service for pharmacists and technicians and seven states have approved the service for interns. More information is available in the NABP Passport section of the NABP website.


Recent COVID-19 Developments Include Authorization for Pharmacists to Order and Administer Testing

As the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to hit its peak in several states over the coming days, United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued new guidance authorizing pharmacists to order and administer COVID-19 testing. Meanwhile, some states are reporting that they are creating their own comprehensive testing strategies, according to The Washington Post.

Recent additional developments include:

  • HHS has announced upcoming funding action to provide money for COVID-19 response to state and local jurisdictions.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has launched a new weekly COVID-19 Surveillance Report.
  • Food and Drug Administration has approved an Abbreviated New Drug Application for Hydroxychloroquine Sulfate Tablets USP to help address shortages to ensure patients, who are currently being treated by the drug for lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as COVID-19 patients, are able to obtain it.
  • US Pharmacopeial Convention has released a draft compounded preparation monograph for hydroxychloroquine sulfate compounded oral suspension, which is available for public comment until July 31, 2020.

Daily updates on the spread of the virus, including a state-by-state breakdown of known infections and fatalities, are available from CDC. International information is available from World Health Organization.

NABP continues to collect information about how boards of pharmacy are responding to COVID-19 in the Coronavirus Updates section of the NABP website. Pharmacists are also encouraged to check their state board(s) of pharmacy websites for jurisdiction-specific information. Additional resources for pharmacists and other health care providers are available from the American Pharmacists Association’s Pharmacists’ Guide to Coronavirus


CDC Provides New Guidelines for Pharmacies During COVID-19 Pandemic

CDC has released new guidance for pharmacies to help minimize risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidance, Considerations for Pharmacies During the COVID-19 Pandemic, applies to all pharmacy staff to minimize their risk of exposure to the virus and reduce the risk for customers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Topics covered in the guidance include:

  • ensuring pharmacy staff who are sick stay home,
  • strategies for minimizing contact between customers and staff and between customers, and
  • other strategies to reduce risk during testing and other close-contact pharmacy care services.

Additional infection control guidance is available from CDC on a variety of topics, including use and conservation of personal protective equipment, hand hygiene, and infection control procedures for other health care settings.


DEA Increases Aggregate Production Quotas for Controlled Substance Medications

In response to higher demand created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has increased aggregate production quotas (APQs) available to pharmaceutical manufacturers for certain controlled substance (CS) medications. Specifically, DEA has issued a final order to increase the 2020 APQ by 15% for CS needed for the treatment of COVID-19. These include fentanyl, morphine, hydromorphone, codeine, ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, and certain CS intermediates, which are essential to their production. The agency has also increased the APQ for methadone to ensure that opioid treatment programs have sufficient supplies to treat patients suffering from opioid use disorder and is increasing the authorized amounts of certain Schedule III and IV CS that may be imported to the US, which are necessary to treat patients using ventilators.

“DEA is committed to ensuring an adequate and uninterrupted supply of critical medications during this public health emergency,” said Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon in a press release. “This will ensure that manufacturers can increase production of these important drugs, should the need arise.”

After the health emergency recedes, DEA states it will reevaluate demand and adjust APQ levels as needed.


Warning: Criminals Found Posing as CDC Representatives to Steal Money and Information

CDC is warning the general public of a new type of phone and phishing scam by criminals posing as CDC representatives, often requesting donations. According to CDC, most of these fraudulent activities are being conducted by phone, utilizing software to “spoof” phone calls to make them appear as if they are coming from phone numbers that may look familiar. CDC advises consumers to avoid answering calls from numbers they do not recognize, and to avoid sharing personal information over the phone. In addition, CDC notes that no federal agency will request donations from the general public. Suspicious phone calls may be reported to the Federal Communications Commission.

In addition, some criminals are impersonating government officials in emails to facilitate phishing attacks. These emails contain malicious attachments or links that can be used to gain control over computer systems and to steal information. Consumers are advised to stay vigilant and to follow good security practices to reduce the likelihood of falling victim to an attack.


Chain Pharmacies Help Expand COVID-19 Testing Options in Some States

While the shortage of available COVID-19 tests continues to make it difficult to identify positive cases, pharmacies in some parts of the country are helping to fill the gaps by providing testing services. For example, in March, Walgreens Boots Alliance began testing vulnerable frontline workers at a site in Bolingbrook, IL, a Chicago suburb. The program is now expanding to Walgreens’ locations in Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Texas, and is expanding to cover the entire state of Illinois, according to Crain’s Chicago Business. Similarly, CVS Health reports rapid testing sites are available in Georgia, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Both chains note that, in accordance with CDC guidance, testing is limited to those who qualify as high-risk patients.