Editor’s note: NACDS president and chief executive officer Steven Anderson has issued the following memo to NACDS members on an important advisory opinion issued late yesterday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which was requested by NACDS, member companies and individual pharmacists:
TO: NACDS Chain Members
FROM: Steven C. Anderson, FASAE, CAE, IOM
SUBJECT: HHS Advisory Opinion Further Supports Pharmacist-Provided COVID-19 Testing: Federal Action Preempts State, Local Policies
On the topic of pharmacist-provided COVID-19 testing, I am writing to share with you an important advisory opinion issued late yesterday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which was requested by NACDS, member companies and individual pharmacists:
This advisory opinion states powerfully that federal law, along with Executive Branch actions, “preempts any state or local requirement that prohibits or effectively prohibits a pharmacist from ordering and administering a COVID-19 diagnostic test that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized.”
NACDS has continued to urge clarity in public policy and to urge the removal of remaining barriers on this matter of critical importance for effective pandemic response on behalf of the American people.
You will recall that on April 8, 2020, the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health within HHS issued guidance “authorizing licensed pharmacists to order and administer COVID-19 tests, including serology tests, that the [FDA] has authorized.” While this was a strong and clear statement in its own right, some questions appeared to remain regarding complexities in public policy and remaining barriers at the state level.
NACDS pursued a dual track of vigorously and comprehensively advocating for the removal of remaining barriers in the states, while seeking additional clarity in federal policy, so pharmacies could help the nation scale testing as supplies become more commercially available. Together we have achieved substantial results as at least 34 states have taken action to remove remaining barriers, though with differences in approach – as generally is the case on scope of practice issues.
NACDS will be discussing with our committees, councils and task forces the effects of HHS’ most recent, and seemingly pivotal, advisory opinion. We will determine the appropriate path forward to ensure the removal of any remaining barriers, to continue to address reimbursement issues related to COVID-19 testing, and to ensure pharmacies and pharmacists are empowered all the more to help protect public health and to help reopen our states and nation for good.
Further, it is clear that it will remain critical to continue to remove barriers on the host of issues related to pharmacy’s role in COVID-19 response. As noted in the report issued by NACDS last week – “Pharmacies: A Vital Partner in Reopening America” – we must ensure an efficient pathway for deploying COVID-19 treatments and vaccines when they are available. We already are engaged in the important work of ensuring the proven record of pharmacies and pharmacists is leveraged.
As always, the dedicated work of your company and your team to assist your patients, communities and nation is truly admired, and remains the driving force behind NACDS. Thank you for your leadership and support.