March 26, 2020
By: Dwayne Page
Under an executive order last week by Governor Bill Lee declaring a state of emergency in Tennessee due to COVID-19, pharmacists are allowed to dispense an extra 90-day supply of maintenance prescriptions as needed.
Local pharmacist Susannah Cripps, in an interview with WJLE last week, explains what that means locally.
“The Governor issued an executive order that allows a pharmacist to dispense an additional 90 day supply of maintenance prescription medication if a patient is out of refills instead of them having to go to the doctor and secure that refill. This is only for prescriptions that are maintenance medications for patients meaning that the prescriptions are being used regularly and have been prescribed on an on-going basis by the patient’s health care provider but happens to be out of refills. It gives us that capability for continuity of care and it will help alleviate some of the workload on the prescribers and other health care providers as this situation escalates. Keep in mind this does not apply to controlled substances. This is maintenance medications for chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, Arthritis, and things like that,” she said.
Among other concerns patients may have during the pandemic is the availability of prescriptions.
“We have had a lot of patients ask about pharmacy hours and the procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic and what will happen at local pharmacies. Will they be able to get their medications. Will there be shortages and things like that. The pharmacies I have spoken to are going to continue observing regular hours and would extend those hours should it become necessary,” said Cripps.
“ As far as shortages, we experience them all the time but I know myself, we have been stocking up on maintenance medications and putting in additional orders so that we are prepared should there be a shortage of any of the maintenance type medications that patients are taking.”
When possible, Cripps said it’s a good idea to make use of your pharmacist’s drive through service.
“Its important to remember that for high risk patients they need to minimize their potential exposure so using the drive through if that is available at your pharmacy or taking advantage of free home delivery so ask your pharmacy providers if they have that service and put that to use for yourself if you are in the groups which are of high risk so you don’t have to risk going into the pharmacy and potentially being exposed to the virus,” she said.
Mail order prescriptions are also an option but they may also pose concerns.
“Mail orders are being offered up as a potential solution but I would caution patients that mail orders present their own set of significant risks. Medications don’t always arrive on time making it necessary to secure an additional prescription at a pharmacy with which you currently may have no relationship to obtain your medication and that could lead to an increased expense for patients and also unnecessary exposure during this time and with the uncertainty as this virus spreads that could become a bigger issue for mail order patients. Research has shown that the virus can live on some inanimate objects for up to three days and when you are using mail order you are increasing the number of hands touching your prescription all the way through the whole chain until it arrives to you. Those are things that you should consider concerning that option.”
“ I would suggest that you continue to use the doctors, nurses, and pharmacists that you know and trust and depend on for your healthcare services and count on them to practice the universal precautions,” said Cripps.