Supporting Economic Growth Among Community, Retail Pharmacies During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Pharmacy Times® interviewed Maryland Secretary of Commerce Kelly M. Schulz and Ulyana Desiderio, director of Biohealth and Life Sciences in the Maryland Department of Commerce, on how growth in the health care and biotech industry can support economic revitalization during and following the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic among community and retail pharmacies.
After spending some time in the Maryland legislature, Schulz found that talking about health care was a critical part of making policy decisions for constituents and residents across the state, she explained. In her work in the legislature, Schulz found that Maryland, in particular, has a strong pharmacy community, with approximately 1300 pharmacies in the state in 2009.
“Locally, and I'll just say anecdotally, there's a significant increase in wanting to go to the neighborhood pharmacy because you get a little bit of that individual attention. You may have less crowds in those types of stores, and I think that there's generally an overall level of comfort that you have with [community pharmacies],” Schulz said. “I think that there's no other opportunity than for that industry to grow because of the type of accountability that we need for those professionals to have and the relationship that we as individuals need to have with them. And so, I see that considerably [progressing] moving forward.”
Schulz additionally discussed what kind of work the COVID-19 Small Business Task Force in the state of Maryland has been doing to support small businesses during the pandemic, as well as some of the ways in which small businesses, such as community pharmacies, have been supported by the COVID-19 Small Business Task Force.
“There were no businesses that were excluded from being able to receive funding from us at the state level. I do know that there's many health care-related industry groups and businesses that did really receive some grants or some loans through us at the state. But I also like to say that the aid, so to speak, doesn't stop at just a funding source, it stops at being able to provide additional types of resources and support to all businesses, and I do know that all of our specific industry representatives and our business development groups do a phenomenal job of outreach,” Schulz said.
Desiderio elaborated that Maryland is a special place for collaboration among organizations in the biotech and life sciences industry.
“I get the feeling that the industry is very supportive of one another, and we learned a lot about that support during this pandemic. We had businesses contacting us trying to fund different parts of their business, whether that's [personal protective equipment] programs or just contacting a partner to see how they're dealing with business continuity issues. Because of the diversity of the expertise in the life science industry and the sizes of companies, we found that larger companies were helping smaller companies, smaller companies were sharing their expertise with those that are just starting up, and I think there was this general feeling of community that really helped everybody to ride this pandemic out and kind of get back to normal business just knowing that they're not alone experiencing these issues.”
Schulz and Desiderio also discussed some of the reasons Maryland has become a hub for medical research during the COVID-19 pandemic, what the Bipartisan Interstate Compact For Rapid Antigen Testing is, and what Maryland’s role in that compact is today.