ARLINGTON, Va. — Pharmacists may be able to “initiate treatment” of COVID-19 with pills like molnupiravir if the medications get emergency use authorization (EUA), an official with the National Association of Chain Drug Stores said Wednesday.
“The story isn’t over,” Sara Roszak, NACDS’ senior vice president of health and wellness strategy and policy, said at a press briefing. “On the horizon we have the rollout of oral COVID therapeutics. NACDS is articulating to the government the clear facts about what will be needed to make deployment of these medications successful for the American people.”
Steps like a clinical assessment and determination of the medication’s need are allowed for pharmacists nationwide under an amendment to the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act, she said. The act preempts state laws, she emphasized.
Pharmacist treatment, which Roszak said is “similar to prescriptive authority,” would be preceded by continued “two-way conversation” with the government over funding, coverage and logistics, she added.
Planning is still ongoing, she noted. “We are looking for opportunities for pharmacies to really be supportive of patients through their journey to get needed medications. I just don’t want to get too far out ahead of the EUA as that will have some real good specifics on what those steps include.”
Lisa Koonin, founder and principal of Health Preparedness Partners, said the PREP amendment was motivated by the realization that “antivirals have to be given very quickly after someone becomes symptomatic.” Experience with influenza shows that people sometimes delay care, and COVID treatment within days is vital, she said.
Roszak noted that while the government has purchased less than 12 million doses of Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics’ molnupiravir and a Pfizer antiviral, pharmacies have administered more than 180 million COVID vaccinations through federal programs, and more through state initiatives. “The scope of what we’re talking about is a little bit different and that helps set the stage of what the planning process looks like and how we’re doing that collaboratively with the government.”