As you know, ASHP staff and members have been working tirelessly during the COVID-19 pandemic to support our members and all healthcare providers to enhance the safe use of medications, deliver quality care, and enhance patient outcomes. This work has served as continued reinforcement of our long-standing commitment to supporting pharmacists across the continuum of care and elevating the vital role that pharmacists play as patient care providers. In our 78-year history, we have continually supported heightened standards and training for pharmacy professionals regardless of practice setting.
In this vein, I am pleased to share that the ASHP Board of Directors has approved the creation of a new membership section that will further strengthen and significantly enhance ASHP’s leadership in the preparation and training of the pharmacy workforce. The new ASHP Section of Pharmacy Educators will provide a unique and distinct membership home and leadership voice within ASHP for pharmacy school faculty, deans, and preceptors who are involved in the training of pharmacists.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how quickly healthcare and the pharmacy profession can change, and how critical education and training are to meet evolving patient care demands. Building on our existing world-class educational offerings and professional development expertise, ASHP is well-positioned to support educators in all settings, preparing the next generation of practitioners to provide the highest level of interprofessional patient care in highly dynamic and complex environments. This new section will play a key role in ensuring we can provide our educators with an even greater voice as we work together to face the immense healthcare challenges of today and tomorrow.
ASHP President-elect Tom Johnson will appoint an executive committee in August to lead the section’s work, and the committee will begin meeting virtually this fall. ASHP members interested in serving on the section’s leadership should submit an application by July 24.
Support for Pharmacy Residents
Over the past several weeks, I have shared information on ASHP’s efforts to support residents and our accredited residency programs facing uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many members and residency programs tell us about ongoing issues, including the potential impact of licensing exam cancellations prompted by stay-at-home orders and social distancing requirements as well as financial challenges faced by their hospitals and health systems. In response to these concerns, on Monday, ASHP’s Commission on Credentialing and Board of Directors approved an extension of the licensure requirement for residents until January 1, 2021. This action, for the 2020–21 residency year only, temporarily waives the requirement that residents be licensed for two-thirds of the residency year (e.g., a July 1 residency start normally requires licensure by November 1). Our Accreditation Services team, through our partners at the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, continues to monitor pandemic-related effects on residencies and will take any necessary future actions to alleviate burdens caused by delays in testing or licensure. In the meantime, ASHP will do everything it can to ensure the maximum amount of flexibility to our accredited programs during these extremely challenging times. If programs or others have questions, please reach out to Janet Silvester, vice president of Accreditation Services, or Stephen Ford, director of Residency Accreditation Services, for assistance.
Taking ASHP Meetings Virtual
The impact of COVID-19 has extended beyond our hospitals and health systems and challenged us to think differently when “business as usual” is no longer possible. Public health and safety measures are likely to remain in place in some form for months to come. In response to this changing landscape, ASHP announced on Wednesday that we will be moving three important fall events to virtual forums.
Policy Week, which includes our annual Legislative Day on Capitol Hill, will become a virtual experience in September. ASHP’s National Pharmacy Preceptors Conference and Conference for Pharmacy Leaders will take place in October as virtual events. Watch for forthcoming programming details and registration information about these valuable meetings. We remain committed to leveraging technology solutions to deliver the dynamic, high-quality educational content and professional development experiences our members expect from us.
One of the first ASHP events affected by COVID-19 was our Summer Meetings & Exhibition, initially planned for the first week of June in Seattle. Instead of gathering there, we are offering a free series of educational “Summer Sessions” at the end of June, featuring select content from the ASHP 2020 Summer Meetings as well as sessions on the latest COVID-19 updates. These sessions will be open to all practitioners, regardless of ASHP membership status. Continuing education credits will be available to participants. Stay tuned to ASHP’s NewsLink, social media channels, and other communications for additional information about these Summer Sessions.
Remdesivir Resources and Advocacy
Since my last blog, there has been promising news on the efficacy of remdesivir as a treatment for COVID-19. Last week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency use authorization for remdesivir to speed access to the investigational antiviral — the first to show promise against SARS-CoV-2 infection. Subsequently, a remdesivir monograph was published in AHFS Drug Information. As a reminder, ASHP has opened access to AHFS DI to all healthcare professionals for a limited time with the username email@example.com and password "covid-19."
Our AHFS drug information staff continue to update ASHP’s Assessment of Evidence for COVID-19-Related Treatments. The document outlines evidence about remdesivir, supportive therapies, and other medications used to treat patients with COVID-19. SafeMedication.com, ASHP’s consumer-friendly medication information resource, is an excellent place for patients to learn more about remdesivir.
We also held a live webinar this week describing the early use of remdesivir for COVID-19 patients. The second part of the webinar series, scheduled for May 20, will share clinical experiences in using remdesivir and a discussion of clinical trial results by the Nebraska Medical Center–Nebraska Medicine pharmacy team. Recorded versions of ASHP’s COVID-19 webinars are available for those unable to attend the live sessions.
While remdesivir shows promise in early studies, access to medication is of great concern to pharmacists across the country. Last week, I sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence urging the administration to make public its process for determining which hospitals will receive allocations of remdesivir, communicate information about the allocations to all hospitals, and provide information on the timeline and details for the commercial availability and distribution of remdesivir. We also asked the administration to coordinate with the FDA and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to allow hospitals the flexibility to reallocate product to meet changing needs.
Our letter was extensively quoted in an Associated Press article picked up by The New York Times — a testament to ASHP’s commitment to being a voice for our profession and leading national efforts to optimize medication use, improve patient safety, and advance clinical pharmacy practice.
At the urging of ASHP and others, last weekend, HHS announced that state health departments will distribute remdesivir to appropriate hospitals in their states. HHS noted that “state and local health departments have the greatest insight into community-level needs in the COVID-19 response, including appropriate distribution of a treatment in limited supply.” We encourage ASHP members who need remdesivir for their patients to contact their state health departments.
ASHP’s Promise to Support the Essential Role of Pharmacists
I wanted to highlight ASHP’s advocacy on behalf of the vital role pharmacists play in the COVID-19 response. Last week, Rep. Carolyn Maloney introduced the Student Loan Forgiveness for Frontline Health Workers Act (H.R. 6720). Unfortunately, pharmacists are not specifically identified as healthcare workers in this important legislation. ASHP, in collaboration with other pharmacy organizations, wrote to Rep. Maloney and urged her to include pharmacists in the loan forgiveness program. We look forward to working closely with Rep. Maloney’s office to support that effort.
Finally, in my last blog, I discussed a letter that I sent to the chief executive officer of Novo Nordisk responding to their advertisements, which omitted pharmacists from a list of individuals, including nurses, doctors, researchers, and other essential workers, who were acknowledged for their caring efforts on the front lines of the COVID-19 response.
I requested that pharmacists be explicitly recognized as healthcare providers and noted for the essential role they are playing, in addition to doctors, nurses, communities, and essential workers. I was pleased to quickly receive a response from Novo Nordisk’s leadership, acknowledging the vital role of pharmacists and agreeing to specifically highlight pharmacists in a new version of the advertisement, which has already been in print.
In closing, I want to reassure our members that ASHP will continue to work across multiple fronts to represent your perspectives and needs as we collectively navigate the ongoing pandemic response so you can provide the best care possible for your patients. Providing you with the latest information and new resources on our COVID-19 Resource Center remains a top priority. Please watch our weekly NewsLink emails to learn about new and updated resources and live webinars, and continue to connect with your peers on our COVID-19 Connect Community. You can also subscribe to @ASHPOfficial to receive content from our daily podcasts.
Thank you for being a member of ASHP and for everything that you do for your patients and our profession.