Could Ohio pharmacists assist with COVID-19 testing?

Posted at 8:57 PM, Apr 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-01 23:14:33-04

CLEVELAND — Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and state Health Director Amy Acton are both continuing to stress the importance of dramatically increasing Ohio's COVID-19 testing capacity.

Acton issued an order requiring all Ohio hospitals, that do not perform their own testing, to send samples to one of four hospitals that can.

In response, the Buckeye Institute just released a proposal calling to have many of Ohio's 15,000 pharmacists for on-site flu and strep testing, and later, even testing for coronavirus in the coming months.

Greg Lawson, Buckeye Institute researcher, told News 5 if pharmacists were approved to perform on-site flu and strep testing at pharmacies, it would free-up coronavirus capacity for Ohio doctors, urgent care facilities and hospitals statewide.

“90% of the population lives within two miles of some kind a pharmacy,” Lawson said.

“This is all about relieving the stress at the places where we know we’re going to see so many more people going because of coronavirus.”

"The surge is coming, we see the numbers going up, so we want to be able to do as much as we can, as early as we can, to make it easier.”

Antonio Ciaccia with the Ohio Pharmacists Association told News 5 his organization is in support of the proposal, just as long as pharmacists have access to adequate person protective equipment.

Ciaccia said pharmacists would need the proper training to conduct COVID-19 testing.

"This would increase access to care exponentially," Ciaccia said.

"A lot of pharmacies have moved to drive-thru only, or curbside pick-up. This would also be something that a patient could do curbside, if pharmacists were to come out.”

"It’s not meant to replace a doctor/patient relationship, it’s meant to compliment it, much like patients coming into a pharmacy today and get a vaccine, that was something that was traditionally done at a doctors office.”

"Absolutely, pharmacies become a very pragmatic option for making sure we’re expanding access to the tests,and diagnosing early on, rather than when it’s too late."

Meanwhile, Lawson believes DeWine could implement the proposal on a temporary basis as an executive order, but it would need state legislature approval to make it permanent.

Lawson said Florida just passed a similar measure, with nearly half of the states in the U.S. allowing pharmacists to conduct testing for flu and strep.