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Pharmacists Call on N.Y. to Lift Restrictions to Fight Coronavirus

Analysis  |  By Jack O'Brien  
   March 23, 2020

The Pharmacists Society of the State of New York released a six-point plan to address the outbreak.

As healthcare stakeholders rally to stem the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), pharmacists in New York are asking the state to take steps to empower their efforts to assist providers and patients.

The Pharmacists Society of the State of New York (PSSNY) released a six-point plan to address the outbreak, including lifting restrictions on testing for COVID-19 and administering vaccinations for the virus when it eventually becomes available.

PSSNY is requesting the ability for pharmacists to test for the coronavirus, refill 30-day prescriptions for patients despite not having a doctor's authorization for a refill, and expand medication delivery services.

As the coronavirus has spread to all 50 states and the District of Columbia, New York has emerged as the epicenter of the domestic COVID-19 outbreak.

On Sunday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo mandated that hospitals increase capacity by 50% and canceled elective surgeries in order to improve the response to the outbreak.

Steve Moore, president of PSSNY, told HealthLeaders that if pharmacists are given increased responsibilities to respond to the coronavirus, burdens facing hospitals in the Empire State can be lifted. 

"In regards to hospitals, we are nowhere near the peak of what's going to happen with COVID-19," Moore said. "If we can keep people out of the hospitals by utilizing other healthcare professionals, such as pharmacists, we can take the stress off the hospitals so they respond to only what they actually need to respond to."

Moore continued: "[That's going to] make sure that patients get treated, not only for issues associated with the coronavirus, but for all of the regular healthcare conditions that may be taking a backseat to this pandemic right now."

Notably, PSSNY said the state must reform its laws overseeing pharmacy benefit managers while also asking to compound commercially available prescriptions to address medication shortages.

Moore said that this is not a time for "turf wars over scope of practice issues," adding that such an approach could relive stresses on the healthcare system.

"If a vaccine was available for the coronavirus, it's not within [a pharmacist's] scope of practice to administer that vaccine because we're limited here in New York," Moore said. "We should expand that scope, and we should allow not just pharmacists, but all of our allied healthcare professionals, to practice at the top of their license and perform the services that they are capable of doing."

Jack O'Brien is the Content Team Lead and Finance Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.

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