Kristin Wiisanen, PharmD, FAPhA, FCCP
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, pharmacists’ scope of practice has expanded exponentially, with pharmacists on the front lines administering COVID-19 vaccines and offering COVID-19 testing services. As of February 2023, CDC reports more than 300 million COVID-19 doses have been given in pharmacies. In July 2022, FDA revised the EUA for Paxlovid to authorize pharmacists to prescribe Paxlovid to eligible patients, with certain limitations.
This issue of Pharmacy Today reviews the guidelines for testing to treat COVID-19 and prescribing Paxlovid in the pharmacy, overviews practice models, and sheds light on hurdles that pharmacists must overcome in order to administer Paxlovid. According to Patrizia Cavazzoni, MD, director for FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, “FDA recognizes the important role pharmacists have played and continue to play in combatting this pandemic.” She also emphasizes the role of the pharmacist in expanding early access to Paxlovid, which must be taken within 5 days after symptoms begin. This is an exciting development that increases the scope of practice for pharmacists, but it comes with challenges stemming from the time needed to assess patients’ symptoms, medications, and laboratory values as well as a changing reimbursement landscape. While the federal government has provided Paxlovid to pharmacies at no cost to date, this won’t be the case forever, with government funding expected to end in mid-2023. At this point, it’s unknown how much of these costs will fall on patients’ shoulders.
In this issue, you’ll also find information on new drug approvals, including Airsupra, the only rescue inhaler approved to treat symptoms of asthma and to help prevent asthma attacks; an update on much-needed fentanyl-based opioid use disorder guidance; and an overview of the hype and demand surrounding GLP-1 receptor agonists. Learn about new HIV treatment and prevention recommendations and get your CPE credit with this month’s article on new therapeutic agents marketed in 2022.
The authority of pharmacists to test to treat COVID-19 in pharmacies is an important addition to the expanding scope of pharmacy practice. These roles require pharmacists to quickly learn new information and skills to keep up with a changing practice landscape. I encourage you to check out helpful APhA resources such as the Pharmacist Decision Making Support Tool, which is available at apha.us/Paxlovid, or pursue additional education in testing to treat COVID-19 and other conditions through APhA’s Test and Treat Certificate Training Program, which is available at pharmacist.com/certificate-training-programs.
Have a great Today! ■