Potential Influenza Pandemic: Proposed Role for Community Pharmacies

APRIL 24, 2018
Jeannette Y. Wick, RPh, MBA, FASCP
Pharmacies, and pharmacists across the nation need to be in a constant state of readiness for the next influenza pandemic outbreak. In particular, they need to promote immunization, and understand how antiviral drugs will be a primary countermeasure. Both of these can minimize influenza's spread and impact during a pandemic.

Should a pandemic occur, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention usually releases antiviral drugs from public stockpiles, working with state health departments to distribute, and develop appropriate dispensing plans. A team of researchers discusses alternative plans for antiviral distribution, and dispensing—and pharmacists opinions about those plans—in a new article published in the journal Health Security. This new proposal suggests that dispensing antivirals through community pharmacies would increase access to the general public, increase the likelihood that patients would receive the antivirals within 48 hours, and reduce burden on public health clinics during pandemics.

The researchers looked at community pharmacists' reactions to this proposal using a nationally representative survey of pharmacists. They report that in general, pharmacists approved of this alternative system, and were willing to participate personally. Enthusiasm is highest among younger pharmacists, and those who have had exposure to administering influenza immunizations. Most respondents indicated that the likelihood that their own pharmacies would participate was quite high.

Respondents also voiced concerns however. Some of them wondered how they would handle antiviral shortages, and asked if prioritization procedures or protocols would be included in the project. They also expressed concern about risk of exposure to influenza, indicating that they worried not only about themselves but also their families. Additional questions included logistics: handling their usual workloads associated with patients who had routine needs, in addition to patients who needed medication for influenza, was a frequent concern. Crowd control, and security were also raised. Finally, respondents had questions about liability.

The authors indicate that this is an issue that needs to be discussed, and elucidated thoroughly before this project goes live. The authors report that their findings are an indication that pharmacists accept this new concept, are willing to participate, and will need training, and education in advance to address potential barriers.


Reference

SteelFisher GK, Benson JM, Caporello H, et al. Pharmacist views on alternative methods for antiviral distribution and dispensing during an influenza pandemic. Health Secur. 2018;16(2):108-118.

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