With COVID-19, Pharmacists OKed for Expanded Practice in Some States, Seek It in Others

With growing concern about strains on the nation’s healthcare system during the COVID-19 outbreak, some states are responding by expanding scope of practice for pharmacists. Find out what new laws in Kentucky and Florida allow and why pharmacists in New York are seeking to do more for their patients. Here is more information.

NEW YORK – The COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating efforts to have states grant broader scope of practice for pharmacists.

The Pharmacists Society of the State of New York is asking that the state lift restrictions on allowing pharmacists to test for COVID-19 and administering vaccinations for the virus when it eventually becomes available.

In a six-point plan, PSSNY is requesting that pharmacists be allowed 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.

While that has not yet occurred in New York, the epicenter of the outbreak, two other states recently took action.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear issued an executive order in March that clears the way for pharmacists to fill prescriptions for noncontrolled medications for 30 days, including an emergency refill. That is designed to allow patients to make fewer trips to pick up prescriptions during social distancing mandates but limits refills on narcotics.

The order, which is in effect until April 8 and can be renewed if needed, allows pharmacists to dispense drugs as needed to treat COVID-19 according to “protocols established by the CDC or NIH or determined to be appropriate by the commissioner of public health or his designee to respond to the circumstances causing the emergency,” the order states. Pharmacists also may set up mobile stations in locations not designated as a pharmacy to ensure homebound older adults and others in need have access to necessary medication.

In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law HB 389, Practice of Pharmacy. It allows pharmacists to enter into agreements with physicians to treat patients for chronic illness such as arthritis, asthma, COPD, type 2 diabetes, HIV, AIDS, obesity and others, while also freeing them to treat for influenza, streptococcus, lice, skin conditions, and minor, uncomplicated infections.

About a third of states now have expanded the roles of pharmacists to order and interpret tests and change medication on a variety of conditions, according to the legislator presenting the bill.

The Florida Medical Association strongly opposed the action in its state, writing on Twitter, “Given the current spread of coronavirus, encouraging potentially infected individuals to visit grocery stores and local pharmacies for medical care and treatment, by individuals not trained to practice medicine is danger and poses an unacceptable risk to the health of ALL Floridians.”

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