Nearly 80 pharmacies in the Midwest have teamed up with the University of Nebraska College of Pharmacy and Michigan’s Ferris State College of Pharmacy to perform rapid diagnostic tests for strep throat and influenza for patients via research grants from the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Foundation.


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Project gauges rapid diagnostic tests in pharmacies

February 3rd, 2014

ARLINGTON, Va. – Nearly 80 pharmacies in the Midwest have teamed up with the University of Nebraska College of Pharmacy and Michigan’s Ferris State College of Pharmacy to perform rapid diagnostic tests for strep throat and influenza for patients via research grants from the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Foundation.

For the project, specially trained and certified pharmacists screen patients for flu and group A streptococcus, the bacteria that causes strep throat, and administer the rapid diagnostic tests for those ­diseases.

The ability to identify illness speeds the time to treatment, the NACDS Foundation noted. For example, the rapid antigen detection test for strep throat yields results in five minutes. Thus, it can be given in a community pharmacy and, if needed, pharmacists can dispense antibiotics on the spot with the direction of a doctor participating in the study. Patients can go from diagnosis to treatment without a doctor’s visit and without waiting for the results of a traditional throat culture, which can take 24 to 48 hours.

Pharmacies participating in the one-year study are in Minnesota, Michigan and Nebraska and include Thrifty White Pharmacy, Meijer Inc., Hy-Vee Inc., Spartan Stores, HomeTown Pharmacy, Keystone Pharmacy, OptiMed Pharmacy and University Pharmacy.

NACDS Foundation president Kathleen Jaeger said the research provides “a great opportunity” to see how offering such services in pharmacies can widen access to health care and improve public health. “We had a pilot study last year and, based on the successful pilot, we expanded the rapid diagnostic test research to phase two, which commenced this year,” she said. “We’re trying to evaluate the effectiveness of these tests within the community pharmacy setting and their impact on patient health outcomes.”

“What we’ve found, generally speaking, is that patients with flu symptoms are probably going to visit their community pharmacy before the doctor’s office,” Jaeger explained. “They come into the pharmacy, maybe in the cough/cold aisle, and ask for advice. And what they really need is to understand whether they have the flu and can take a Tamiflu and go home and rest, or if they actually may just have a cold and can get something from the cough/cold aisle.”

Aaron Jennissen, vice president of pharmacy operations at Thrifty White, noted that having the tests available in pharmacies “gives patients another point of access to health care.”

In mid-January, Meijer announced that via the research project it’s working with Ferris State University and the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy to study rapid diagnostic testing and how medicines are administered to patients for flu and strep throat in pharmacies. A dozen Meijer pharmacies in Michigan are providing free diagnostic testing for flu and strep throat.

“This is not a replacement of physician services,” stated Karen Mankowski, vice president of pharmacy operations for Meijer. “Increasing accessibility to testing for flu and strep throat and enabling pharmacists to work from those results means that patients might self-treat symptoms less and get better more quickly. That decreases the risk of spreading those common illnesses and allows doctors and nurse practitioners to provide care to patients with more complicated conditions.”

The NACDS Foundation noted that talk show host and author Dr. Mehmet Oz of “The Dr. Oz Show,” who is a cardiac surgeon, demonstrated the rapid diagnostic test for strep throat on his program last month. “I’m hopeful one day we’ll be able to get this in pharmacies,” Oz said during the television segment.

Accurate, timely diagnosis also addresses rising concerns about antibiotic overuse. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each year at least 2 million people become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria and 23,000 people die from the infections.

“With the rapid diagnostic testing, they’re ensuring patients need an antibiotic before they’re prescribing that medicine,” Jaeger said.

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