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Friday, May 22, 2020
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HHS Advisory Opinion Concludes Federal Law Permits Pharmacists to Order, Administer COVID-19 Tests

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the General Counsel has concluded that the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act, in conjunction with the Secretary’s March 10, 2020 declaration, preempts any state or local requirement that prohibits or effectively prohibits a pharmacist from ordering and administering a COVID-19 diagnostic test that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized.

Read the full HHS Advisory Opinion

In Texas, there has been confusion and disagreement regarding pharmacists' ability to “order and administer” CLIA-waived COVID-19 tests without needless barriers, such as a physician’s order. The Texas Pharmacy Association remains in close contact with the Governor’s office, the Department of State Health Services, and the Texas State Board of Pharmacy for further clarification at the state level. This advisory may be just what we need. The U.S. Deputy Surgeon General is standing behind this position as evidenced in a letter to the District of Columbia Board of Pharmacy emphasizing that "prohibition on testing at pharmacies is preempted by federal law" and reiterating that pharmacists can “order and administer” COVID-19 tests.

TPA Attends State Pharmacy Association Leadership Conference

Texas Pharmacy Association CEO Debbie Garza and President-Elect Michelle Beall attended the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations (NASPA)/Pharmacists Mutual 2020 Virtual Leadership Conference on May 19. Among the highlights was a panel of national pharmacy association executives including Tom Menighan of the American Pharmacists Association (APhA), Steve Anderson of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS), Doug Hoey of the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA), Chad Worz of the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists (ASCP), and Lucinda Maine of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP). The event also included a keynote presentation from Miss America Camille Schrier, a pharmacy student from Virginia who is a champion for medication safety and the role pharmacists play in healthcare. Good governance and financial management were other topics discussed. “It was great to hear from national leaders in our industry and be inspired as a pharmacist leader," Beall said. "I definitely came away with ideas to implement during my upcoming presidency."

Texas Pharmacists Administer COVID-19 Tests

Staff at ReNue Pharmacy, including TPA member and Texas Pharmacy Foundation board member Shawn Ahmad (right), administer COVID-19 tests to patients.

McNabb Describes How Pharmacies Rise to Challenges Amid COVID-19

TPA Member Ben McNabb, owner of Love Oak Pharmacy in Eastland, explained during a panel discussion at the Pharmacy Quality Alliance (PQA) 2020 Annual Meeting how pharmacies like his are rising to the challenges imposed by COVID-19 to keep their patients healthy. McNabb noted the role of pharmacists in testing and vaccination.  “I would like to see pharmacies be given that opportunity to maintain that designation and possibly enter into other point-of-care testing like for [glycated hemoglobin] and cholesterol testing. There’s a lot of things that pharmacists can do,” he said.

Benjamin McNabb

Some pharmacies, such as his, have expanded their delivery and telemedicine services as well. “I think there’s a void that we can fill to partner with telemedicine, to partner with local physicians, especially in chronic disease management,” said McNabb.

Center for Biosimilars (May 13, 2020) Jeremias, Skylar
Sheneman: 5 Ways Pharmacy Students Can Help During Pandemic

TPA Member Jared Sheneman, a student pharmacist at the University of Houston College of Pharmacy, writes that during the pandemic he’s often asked himself, “What can I do? I’m just a pharmacy student.” He concluded that he and other pharmacy students can do five things: (1) share reputable news and medical advice from trusted sources, (2) provide customers with care, (3) stay connected, (4) participate in research, and (5) continue pharmacy studies.

James T. McCarty

Pharmacy Times (May 19, 2020) Sheneman, Jared

In Memoriam: James McCarty

Former TPA Board Member James T. McCarty passed away May 10 in La Porte at age 92. The University of Houston College of Pharmacy called him a “legendary pharmacist and educator” as well as “an inspiring leader, communicator and patient advocate.” Among his many accomplishments and honors, former TPA member James T. McCarty was recognized as TPA's Pharmacist of the Year in 1992. He also served as national president of Phi Lambda Sigma and the Harris County Pharmacy Association.

James T. McCarty

University of Houston College of Pharmacy (May 15, 2020)


Governor Abbott Announces Phase Two to Open Texas

Governor Greg Abbott Monday announced the second phase of the State of Texas' ongoing plan to safely and strategically open Texas while minimizing the spread of COVID-19. Under Phase II, restaurants may increase their occupancy to 50% and additional services and activities that remained closed under Phase I may open with restricted occupancy levels and minimum standard health protocols laid out by the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Office of the Texas Governor (May 18, 2020) Abbott, Greg

Texas Governor Instructs State Agencies to Trim Budgets by 5%

Texas’ top leaders asked certain state agencies and higher education institutions Wednesday to reduce their budgets by 5% for the current biennium — an attempt to tighten financial belts amid the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Entities excluded include the Texas Department of State Health Services, benefits and eligibility levels in Medicaid programs, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and behavioral health service programs.

Texas Tribune (May 20, 2020) Pollock, Cassandra

DSHS Updates Guidance on Reporting COVID 19 Test Results

To comply with the governor's March 24 executive order, laboratory facilities must submit all COVID-19 test results, including positive, negative, and indeterminant results. To set up your facility for electronic transmission, please see the registration and onboarding instructions on the Complying with Governor’s Order to Report COVID-19 Lab Test Results in Texas page.

Texas Department of State Health Services (May 18, 2020)

Memorial Day Holiday to Delay Pharmacy Medicaid Payments

There will be a one-day delay in Vendor Drug Program payments to pharmacy providers because of the May 25 Memorial Day holiday. This affects claims for traditional Medicaid, the Children with Special Health Care Needs Services Program, and Kidney Health Care Program. Claims submitted between May 15 and May 21 will be paid on Tuesday, May 26, with deposits available May 28. Claims submitted on or after May 22 will pay on the regular cycle.

Texas Health and Human Services Commission (May 21, 2020) Vendor Drug Program

Texas Medical Association Recommendations About Hydroxychloroquine

The Texas Medical Association does not recommend the use of hydroxychloroquine in preventing or treating COVID-19. Dr. John Carlo, an epidemiologist and member of the TMA COVID-19 Task Force, said he worries about potentially serious side effects associated with hydroxychloroquine. The Texas Medical Board does not issue guidance regarding specific drugs or treatments for COVID-19, according to an agency spokesperson.

KXAN-TV (May 20, 2020) Engel, John

CVS Health Opens 44 New Drive-Thru Test Sites in Texas

CVS Health will open 44 new COVID-19 test sites at select CVS Pharmacy drive-thru locations across Texas, using self-swab tests. CVS Health expects to have up to 1,000 locations across the country offering this service by the end of May, with the goal of processing up to 1.5 million tests per month, subject to availability of supplies and lab capacity.

PR Newswire (May 21, 2020) CVS Health

Track COVID-19 Cases in Texas

The Texas Department of State Health Services offers an interactive online map with the latest statistics about COVID-19 in Texas. There are currently more than 52,000 cases reported in the state, with more than 1,400 fatalities and 1,700 currently hospitalized. It’s estimated that more than 31,000 patients have recovered. About 800,000 tests have been performed.

Texas Department of State Health Services (May 21, 2020)

Texas Tops Participation in #Fight4Rx Campaign

Texas sits atop the list of top states—beating out Alabama, Pennsylvania, Utah, and others—for patient engagement in NCPA’s Fight4Rx campaign, which encourages pharmacists and their patients to text Fight4Rx to 52886. Since the launch of Fight4Rx, pharmacists and patients are stepping up in the fight against PBMs. Promote Fight4Rx in your pharmacy with materials from the toolkit and sharing content on Facebook and Twitter.

National Community Pharmacists Association (May 18, 2020)


FDA Updates PPE Policies for Pharmacy Compounders During COVID-19

The FDA updated its guidance for pharmacy compounders who experience shortages of personal protective equipment. FDA said drugs can be compounded in a segregated compounding area that is not in a cleanroom, when the following beyond-use dates are utilized: up to 12 hours if stored at room temperature, and up to 24 hours if refrigerated.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (May 14, 2020)

NACDS Report Outlines Pharmacy's Role in Reopening Country

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores unveiled a new report highlighting the key role pharmacies can play as the country starts to reopen. The report, "Pharmacies: A Vital Partner in Reopening America," defines specific actions to advance COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, and to prepare well for the deployment of treatments and vaccines when available.

National Association of Chain Drug Stores (May 15, 2020)

Redfield Touts Decrease in COVID-19 Transmission

CDC Director Robert Redfield said the U.S. has seen sufficient declines in community-based transmission of the novel coronavirus to enable businesses to begin reopening, but the government still needs to expand testing and contact tracing to prevent another wave of infection. CDC looks to expand the contact tracing workforce by up to 100,000 people.

The Hill (May 19, 2020) Samuels, Brett

Pharmacy Technicians on Front Lines of COVID-19 Crisis

Pharmacy technicians are demonstrating unwavering commitment, strength, and courage during the COVID-19 pandemic across pharmacy settings. The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) has launched #CPhTStrong, a platform for Certified Pharmacy Technicians (CPhTs) to share personal stories of the challenges they face during COVID-19.

Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (May 18, 2020)

White House Taps Firm to Manufacture COVID-19 Drugs

HHS' Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority awarded a four-year contract worth $354 million to Virginia-based Phlow to manufacture medicines and active pharmaceutical ingredients needed to combat COVID-19 as part of the administration's effort to reduce the country's reliance on foreign manufacturing.

Reuters (May 19, 2020) Erman, Michael and Banerjee, Ankur

Former FDA Chief Says Mass Vaccine Availability 'More Likely a 2021 Event'

A coronavirus vaccine likely won't be available for widespread distribution until 2021, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said Sunday, citing a "lot of uncertainties." "When you try to scale up and get volume, a lot of things can go wrong, a lot of things can be delayed. It's very hard to get to the point where you're manufacturing at high, high quantities," Gottlieb said

The Hill (May 17, 2020) Klar, Rebecca

CDC to Launch Nationwide COVID-19 Antibody Study

The CDC plans to collect data from as many as 325,000 people from 25 metropolitan areas in order to track the spread of the novel coronavirus into 2021 and beyond, according to CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund. The study, expected to start by June or July, will test samples from blood donors for the presence of antibodies to the virus.

Reuters (May 18, 2020) Brown, Nick

FDA Probes Accuracy Issue With Abbott's Rapid Virus Test

Federal health officials are alerting doctors to a potential accuracy problem with a rapid test for COVID-19 used at thousands of hospitals, clinics and testing sites across the U.S., including the White House. The FDA is investigating preliminary data suggesting Abbott Laboratories’ 15-minute test can miss COVID-19 cases, falsely clearing patients of infection.

Associated Press (May 14, 2020) Perrone, Matthew

Lack of Evidence, Transparency for Compounded Topical Pain Creams

While compounded topical pain creams have become an increasingly popular alternative to oral pain medications and opioids, there is a lack of scientific evidence to support their safety or effectiveness. Many ingredients used are not FDA approved to topically treat pain. Patients may not know they are not subject to the same level of quality testing and oversight.

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

U.S. Secures 300 Million Doses of Potential AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine

The United States has secured almost a third of the first one billion doses planned for AstraZeneca’s experimental COVID-19 vaccine by pledging up to $1.2 billion, as world powers scramble for medicines to get their economies back to work. The British drugmaker said it had signed the first agreements to supply at least 400 million doses of the vaccine.

Reuters (May 21, 2020) Faulconbridge, Guy, and Holton, Kate


Prepare for COVID-19 Vaccine by Expanding Role of Pharmacists

One professional often overlooked as a vital member of the health care team is the pharmacist. Pharmacists will play a pivotal role in immunizing their communities when a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available. This is an ideal time for state lawmakers to review and revise pharmacy practice statutes in preparation for a vaccine that many will flock to receive.

Morning Consult (May 19, 2020) Vukmir, Leah

The Pharmacist's Role in Heart Health

As health care providers often serving on the front lines, pharmacists have potentially underused opportunities to help keep patients’ tickers in tip-top shape. The underutilization of pharmacists in wellness and disease-state management may come from lack of recognition they receive for the value they add to the patient care equation, says one cardiologist.

Drug Topics (May 15, 2020) Wiley, Frieda

Pharmacists Share Best Practices for Pandemic Surge

Pharmacy leaders who have experienced COVID-19 surges are sharing best practices in preparation for the next stage of the pandemic. Advice includes: give pharmacists visibility into hospital medication inventory to help prevent shortages, adapt staff roles, let pharmacists work at the top of their licenses, and mitigate risk by automating medication-related tasks.

Managed Healthcare Executive (May 18, 2020) Stevenson, Jim

Moderna: Early Coronavirus Vaccine Results Are Encouraging

In the next phase of the study, researchers will try to determine which dose is best for a definitive experiment that they aim to start in July. In all, 45 people have received one or two shots of the vaccine, being tested at three different doses. The kind of detailed antibody results needed to assess responses are only available on eight volunteers so far.

Associated Press (May 18, 2020) Marchione, Marilynn

Why COVID-19 Treatment May Be Long Way Off

Experts across the health care spectrum say despite the billions of dollars being spent and the more than 1,250 studies launched to find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, success could be elusive and a long way off. COVID-19 affects many different parts of the body, and the complexity of the illness means it will require multiple therapies.

Kaiser Health News (May 15, 2020) Szabo, Liz

Reopening: What Should Pharmacy Business Look Like Now?

Pharmacies will have to define what the new normal is. Here’s how you’ll have to adjust your pharmacy business for the long term to keep your patients safe: continue following state and local guidelines, communicate with patients, keep up COVID-inspired services, build distancing into your store, and change what “good customer service” looks like.

Elements (May 14, 2020) PBA Health

Insulins Available at U.S. Pharmacies Are Consistent with Product Labeling

A recent study examining the consistency and potency of insulin purchased at U.S. retail pharmacies. The study, led by University of Florida researcher Timothy Garrett and published in Diabetes Care, found all human and analog insulins measured contained the expected quantity of active insulin.

American Diabetes Association (May 11, 2020) Diaz, Daisy

Facebook Studies Reveal Science Mistrust Winning on Vaccine Messaging

Facebook groups that fuel mistrust of health guidance, such as those that air anti-vaccine views, have gained the upper hand over groups with reliable information from health agencies, researchers report. Meanwhile, a separate study showed that Facebook posts about the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine were largely negative.

Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (May 14, 2020) Schnirring, Lisa

Most Insurers Fully Cover COVID-19 Testing, Treatment

A majority of health insurance providers fully cover the costs of COVID-19 testing and treatment for their members, a survey found. Eighty percent said they would cover testing costs in full, while 69% are covering treatment costs in full. Separate research has shown that out-of-pocket expenses can deter patients from seeking necessary care.

Health Payer Intelligence (May 18, 2020) Sokol, Emily

Substitute Pharmacists Warn Co-Workers: We’ll Probably Bring Virus to You

With regular employees out sick, CVS and Walgreens rely on traveling workers to fill in at short notice. But when these floaters show up at a store, they often aren’t told if anyone there has tested positive. Even more terrifying, added one Dallas pharmacist, is the possibility that he and other floaters are catching the virus and unwittingly spreading it to other stores.

ProPublica (May 18, 2020) Kofman, Ava

Pharmacy Technician Certification Board
Free Member CE: Implementing the Patient Care Process for Hepatitis C Patients

Texas Pharmacy Today
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Texas Pharmacy Association
Debbie Garza, R.Ph., Chief Executive Officer
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Texas Pharmacy Today is a weekly e-newsletter for members of the Texas Pharmacy Association, 3200 Steck Avenue, Suite 370, Austin, TX 78757. According to Texas Government Code 305.027, portions of this material may be considered "legislative advertising." Authorization for its publication is made by Debbie Garza, CEO, Texas Pharmacy Association.

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