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HHS advisory opinion further supports pharmacist-provided COVID-19 testing: Federal action preempts state, local policies

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ARLINGTON, Va. – The National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) is welcoming an important advisory opinion issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that was requested by NACDS, member companies and individual pharmacists. The 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.”

steve anderson

Steven Anderson

“Pharmacies and pharmacists already are playing a critical role in helping to scale COVID-19 testing, as well as providing additional health and wellness services to patients with diverse needs in the face of this pandemic. This strong advisory opinion will go a long way in helping to remove remaining barriers to pharmacist-provided COVID-19 testing, which is essential for public health and for helping to reopen the economy for good. We appreciate Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar’s work to continue to empower pharmacies and pharmacists in their crucial service in this crisis. Pharmacies are the most accessible healthcare destinations, and they need to be fully empowered for the ultimate good of the nation, of every state, of every community, and all Americans,” said NACDS president and CEO Steven Anderson.

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, member companies, and individual pharmacists have continued to urge clarity in public policy, and have continued to urge the removal of remaining barriers, on this matter of critical importance for effective pandemic response.

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. At least 34 states have taken action to remove remaining barriers, though with differences in approach.

NACDS indicated that it is discussing with its 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,” Anderson said.

Last week, NACDS issued a report – “Pharmacies: A Vital Partner in Reopening America” – that provides comprehensive recommendations on COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, and vaccines and treatments.


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