April 10, 2020

We hope this email finds you safe and well.

OPA continues our work to fight for pharmacists and patients during this unprecedented pandemic, and we're pleased to report that there have more excellent changes made by state officials this week - many of which came from direct requests from OPA.

COVID-19 testing authority
First, the Board of Pharmacy issued new guidance, expanding the authority for pharmacists, pharmacy interns, and pharmacy technicians to conduct tests for COVID-19. This comes at the same time that the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services issued new guidance under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act authorizing licensed pharmacists to order and administer COVID-19 tests that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized. We believe that if pharmacies can be adequately equipped with safety equipment, they should be empowered to help expand vital access to these tests.

In March, the Buckeye Institute issued a number of policy recommendations for the state of Ohio to address in light of the pandemic, including authorizing pharmacists to test and treat minor common illnesses and prescribe necessary medication to ease the increasing strain on the state’s health care system. News Channel 2 Cleveland recently highlighted this issue. While not completely addressing our "test & treat" recommendation, these are significant steps in the right direction. OPA will continue pursuit of test & treat authority for flu and strep to open up patient access to needed testing, and we'll be working to provide guidance as COVID-19 testing resources are made available.

Consult agreement expansion
We are pleased to report that building on the success of HB 188 in the 131st General Assembly that empowered pharmacists to work with physicians to manage drug therapy for patients, the Board of Pharmacy issued emergency guidance that expands pharmacist collaboration to certified nurse practitioners (CNPs), clinical nurse specialists (CNSs), certified nurse midwives (CNMs), and physician assistants (PAs) in hospitals and institutional facilities.

The move, which was requested by OPA, and in consultation with the Medical Board and Nursing Board, will enable pharmacists to be better activated to manage chronic diseases in collaboration with providers who may need the additional expertise and resources to provide care for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. For more on this change, click here.

Ohio Medicaid lowers barriers for prescription drug access
The Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) has announced new measures aimed at reducing provider burdens and opening up access to medications to Medicaid beneficiaries. These progressive measures will help ensure patients have the medications and care they need as unprecedented strain hits Ohio's health care system. ODM, in conjunction with the managed care organizations (MCOs) and MyCare Ohio Plans (MCOPs), has eased several restrictions in their pharmacy benefits to ensure members can promptly receive current and new prescriptions. Many of the these changes were specifically requested by OPA, and will cover both managed care and fee-for-service providers.

The emergency provider agreement makes a number of sweeping changes, including reducing prior authorization hassles, allowing coverage for pharmacist-initiated OTC medications, and opening up restrictive networks. For more information on the changes, click here.

We're not done yet
OPA still has a number of changes that we're working on, but so far, the state's progress on our priorities has been very positive. We have been thankful for the Board of Pharmacy's ongoing responsiveness - specifically the frequently updated pharmacy safety and infection control procedures that protect pharmacy staff and patients. 

We're thankful the Department of Medicaid's recent changes that will eliminate patient and provider hassles and barriers, and we continue our push for holistic PBM reform and provider status implementation.

We are also pursuing a number of scope of practice advancements that have been bolstered by the emergency orders that emerged this week. Please note on the consult agreement expansion mentioned above that it is limited to inpatient settings. If you have a doctor or nurse who would be willing to submit a letter to the pharmacy board and medical board, requesting that this site restriction be eliminated, please contact aciaccia@ohiopharmacists.org

Please keep track of our ongoing progress on emergency regulatory changes during this pandemic, and be sure to check out our dedicated COVID-19 resource page. We are working hard to make sure that pharmacists have the legal abilities and resources necessary to practice safely and in an elevated manner that can meet this massive public health challenge.

Thank you for all of your heroic efforts. Please stay safe.