SIDP Reminds Public to Have ‘Proper Information About the Safety, Efficacy of Medications’ During COVID-19 Pandemic

Members of the Society of Infectious Diseases Pharmacists (SIDP) have been on the forefront of the pandemic, reviewing treatment data and assisting in interpretation for clinical use.

The role of the pharmacist during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is as crucial as ever, and various pharmacies and organizations have come together to fight the virus.

Members of the Society of Infectious Diseases Pharmacists (SIDP) have been on the forefront of the pandemic, reviewing treatment data and assisting in interpretation for clinical use. Last week, the SIDP introduced its YouTube channel and a dedicated webpage with further resources on COVID-19. In addition, treatment reviews from pre-March 19, 2020, literature and March 19-March 25, 2020, have been shared.

Zahra Escobar, PharmD, BCIDP, co-director of Antimicrobial Stewardship Programs (ASP) for SIDP, described the pharmacist’s role during the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to assisting the ASP tasks.

“One unique situation we’re all facing is drug shortages, and mitigation of those shortages is a big issue for all pharmacists,” Escobar said in an interview with Pharmacy Times®. “This includes metered-dose inhalers, sedative agents like dexmedetomidine, antibiotics, and of course, proposed anti-COVID-19 treatments, like hydroxychloroquine.”

In addition, Escobar highlighted how community and hospital pharmacists alike are already identifying many instances of inappropriate prescribing of hydroxychloroquine.

“We have to create strategies to maintain supply for patients who are on this medication for chronic indications, like rheumatoid arthritis,” Escobar said in an interview with Pharmacy Times®.

Escobar said that although accessibility to pharmacists is changing, with more visits shifting from in-person to online, pharmacists will still go the extra mile to help patients get their medications.

ASPs are able to optimize treatment of infectious diseases more than ever during this pandemic, according to Escobar. There are many places for ASPs to play a crucial role, such as in reviewing and interpreting the circulating data about pharmacological treatments of COVID-19 and helping to create an appropriate institutional treatment algorithm.

More examples include:

  • Assisting with the dissemination of clinical information and reassuring providers that supportive care remains the mainstay of therapy when they feel concerned about the lack of availability of antiviral therapeutic agents.
  • Prospective audit and feedback of antibiotic prescriptions becoming more important, as COVID-19 patients are taking up a lot of focus of frontline medical providers.
  • Determining the role of antibiotic therapy in patients with COVID-19. Depending on the test access and turnaround time, patients may be started on antibiotics while waiting for COVID-19 results. Once those results are available, SIDP teams need to reconsider the ongoing role of antibiotics, keeping in mind that these same patients may also be at risk for post-viral, bacterial pneumonia.

The importance of educating health care professionals and the public in the COVID-19 response is high, with Escobar reminding pharmacists that “knowledge is power, and knowledge will save lives.” In particular, staying informed about the safety and efficacy of medications is critical.

“Citizens, including health care providers alike are anxious, they’re concerned,” Escobar said in an interview with Pharmacy Times®. “They want to do something. We have seen over and over again that ‘doing’ something, in the context of giving treatments with minimal data, has frequently been ineffective and, in some cases, it’s been harmful.”

Even with the ongoing trials that compare different treatments for COVID-19, Escobar emphasized that data and information take a lot of time to collect.

“In the meantime, we have to read and learn with caution from the case reports and case series that are being published,” Escobar said in an interview with Pharmacy Times®. “These publications give us clues about drugs that may or may not work, but they still need to be validated with larger studies before we apply the results to every possible patient with COVID-19.”