On Tuesday, March 1, 2022, President Biden delivered his State of the Union address. During his speech, he laid out plans to launch a pharmacy-centered “Test to Treat” initiative. As the nation prepares to enter a new phase of the now two-year-long COVID-19 pandemic, this message couldn’t come at a more critical time.
Convenient access to community pharmacy-driven testing and treatment is necessary to combat the ongoing battle with COVID-19. And since 9 out of 10 people in the US live within five miles of a pharmacy, many will be able to get the care they desperately need because of the Administration’s new plan — even those in rural and traditionally medically underserved areas.
The FDA recently prohibited pharmacists from being able to administer the life-saving antiviral medications that represent the “treat” portion of the President’s historic “Test to Treat” program. Because of this action, medications like Paxlovid and Molnupiravir can only be prescribed by physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants.
The FDA’s explicit blocking of community pharmacists from administering these critical anti-viral medications was a 180-degree turnaround from the Department of Health and Human Services’ announcement just last September that authorized pharmacies to “order and administer” select COVID-19 therapeutics. Despite President Biden’s goal to improve access by activating this critical pathway to care, community pharmacy is effectively banished from the Test to Treat plan.
Urgent action needs to be taken to amend the EUA and/or provide overriding authority to pharmacists so they can help the nation heal from the lingering devastation brought on by COVID-19. The government should be making access to COVID-19 treatment easier, not harder.
Here’s what you can do:
A petition was started on advocacy platform Change.org asking the FDA to let pharmacists prescribe COVID-19 treatment medications. Sign the petition and let your voice be heard! And if you’re active on social media, do your part to make #letusprescribe a trending topic.
The best way to affect government is through your elected officials. Call, email, write a letter — do whatever you have to do to ensure that your local officials know that pharmacists should be allowed to prescribe COVID-19 therapeutics. You’re mad. They should be, too.
Community pharmacists like you have been a vital part of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic — a fight we are so close to winning. This isn’t the time to be limiting the weapons we use in that fight. Let’s tell this administration that, as pharmacists, it’s time to #LetUsPrescribe.