Ebola Response Resources for Pharmacists

With concerns of a potential Ebola outbreak in the United States still heightened, a pharmaceutical disaster response group is readying pharmacists with a series of resources on the virus.

With concerns of a potential Ebola outbreak in the United States still heightened, a pharmaceutical disaster response group is readying pharmacists with a series of resources on the virus.

Rx Response has addressed the need for clear information about Ebola by developing guidelines for community pharmacists and retail pharmacy staff, following a request from a major retail pharmacy chain.

“In the case of recent concern about Ebola, concomitant with the extremely low risk of exposure in the US, the role of the community pharmacist as an educated, trusted health care resource comes to the forefront,” wrote Rx Response Director Erin Mullen, PhD, RPh, CEM, in a blog post on the group’s website. “As there is no vaccine or antiviral treatment, the pharmacist has a response role that includes arming the public with accurate information, warning of counterfeit claims of Ebola ‘cures,’ and explaining the true risk of exposure while, perhaps, recommending interventions to prevent diseases that are far more likely.”

The resources provided by the group include an Ebola information website, guidelines for pharmacists and staff members, and guidelines for owners of independent pharmacies and regional chain stores.

Dr. Mullen added that the clinical care a pharmacist provides not only involves researching and advising patients on any specific disease, but also maintaining interconnected links of business continuity throughout the biopharmaceutical supply chain to ensure the health of patients across the country. Regardless of any emergency that requires the health care community to provide care for the afflicted, Rx Response noted that there also needs to be a level of care maintained for those who are ill due to other reasons, such as acute or chronic illnesses.

“Recognition of this fact is why the entire health care sector is recognized as part of the critical infrastructure of the nation,” Dr. Mullen wrote. “Because of the critical nature of the biopharmaceutical supply chain and pharmacy care services, it is prudent to have a plan for the low-probability, potentially high-consequence event of an exposure to a symptomatic Ebola patient within the pharmacy or other workplace.”

To assist pharmacists, store owners, and managers, Rx Response developed checklists to educate pharmacy and non-pharmacy staff, in addition to pointing out management considerations to be pondered prior to any actual emergency. By following these guidelines, providers can help ensure that there is no interruption in care for any and all patients.

In addition, Rx Response is asking the pharmacy community to provide rational and informed guidance by emphasizing to patients that the risk of Ebola infection in the United States is extremely limited.

“Rx Response is also urging pharmacists to remind people that there are many other endemic diseases and conditions that are far more likely to have similar symptoms to acute Ebola infection, such as influenza,” the group said in a press release. “On this front, Rx Response has urged pharmacists to reinforce in this Ebola environment the importance of people protecting themselves for the upcoming flu season by getting a flu shot.”