HSOP Serves as Resource to Pharmacies Nationwide
AUBURN, Alabama – Auburn’s Harrison School of Pharmacy responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by making hand sanitizer for the community. It continues to be a resource for pharmacies throughout Alabama and the country seeking support and answers under new operations. Kimberly Braxton Lloyd, the school’s associate dean of clinical affairs and outreach, talks about the school’s efforts in response to this unprecedented situation.
You were part of the group that led the making of hand sanitizer for the community. Talk about that effort.
In mid-March, we developed a COVID 19 task force on campus and we started thinking about how we could increase awareness amongst students and employees about COVID 19. Part of that was putting together kits that included hand sanitizer and an informational sheet about how to wash your hands. We had a goal of assembling 5,000 kits. Initially, we were able to obtain hand sanitizer, but then the demand went up dramatically and we weren’t able to purchase any. So we started working to compound hand sanitizer ourselves.
There were several different hurdles we had to overcome. The first was getting permission from the FDA to compound without a prescription for a specific patient. Once they issued the authorization for pharmacies nationwide to compound hand sanitizer, we ordered supplies, mapped out the project, got volunteers from faculty and students and got permission from the Board of Pharmacy to compound outside the four walls of the pharmacy so that we could spread students out in the laboratory environment.
Once we got everything going, we’ve been able to keep a continuous supply. We’re compounding around 500 bottles per week and increased our efforts as employees began returning to campus. We’re also giving the hand sanitizer out to patients of the Auburn University Employee Pharmacy and Auburn University Student Pharmacy. When they come to pick up their prescriptions, we offer a bottle of hand sanitizer.
Where does that project go from here?
We ordered enough ingredients to make around 5,000 bottles. We plan to compound everything that we have in stock and then we’ll reassess the need. Once it’s available online and in stores, then I think we won’t need to continue our production.
Talk about what your team has done in creating this resource page for pharmacists in the state.
Once everything started unfolding with COVID-19, we stated thinking about how we could assist pharmacists with changing their operations and workflow to keep their employees and their patients safe. We received calls from our alumni that needed extra help because of the changes within the pharmacy. So I sent an email to all of our students who are licensed interns and to pharmacists in the community to ask if anyone was available to help out, and we were able to get a directory of people willing to help pharmacies in their areas
Once the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services permitted pharmacists to conduct COVID-19 testing in the community pharmacy setting, we developed a resource page for pharmacists to learn about the steps involved in introducing testing within their environment.
I feel that community pharmacies are a good resource for the public so it’s important for us to provide resources to those who are serving communities throughout the State of Alabama.
What about pharmacists nationwide? Auburn alumni are everywhere. Are you a resource for them and non-Auburn alumni too?
The Auburn University Harrison School of Pharmacy is providing support, not only for pharmacists that work within Alabama, but our alumni throughout the country. We have been receiving calls and requests for support for those pharmacists who are trying to navigate this pandemic. The school’s Drug Information Center is a resource for them.
What do we need to know about COVID-19 from a pharmaceutical perspective?
You need to know about your medication supply. If you anticipate any refills, you should notify your pharmacy and not wait until you’re almost out. This lead time is effective if the pharmacy has adjusted hours or changed its deliver method. Many medications can be filled for a 90-day supply. If you get your medications every month, consider asking your pharmacist to provide a 90-day supply. That way you’ll have more of your medication on hand just in case there is any change in access to the pharmacy or if there is a disruption in the supply chain. This is especially important for patients who have heightened disease states that require daily medications, such as diabetes or asthma. Think ahead, think about how often your get your refills and try to keep on top of that so that you have everything you need at home.
We hear a lot that our drugs are imported from China. What do we need to know about the future of pharmaceuticals coming from that country?
Some medications that are made within the United States, the ingredients come from different parts of the world and so we get either medications or ingredients from countries such as India and China. We have been anticipating and monitoring very closely possible changes in the supply chain that could impact the availability of certain medications. If this does occur, your pharmacist can work with you to identify if there’s a comparable medication that can be interchanged and make recommendations to your physician or prescriber to make sure there is no disruption in the control of your disease state.
In addition to the supply chain, there’s also changes in medication use patterns that we’re closely monitoring. For instance, in the hospital, we often treat respiratory conditions with nebulizers. But nebulizers have been shown to increase the risk of the vapor being aerosolized and spread throughout that environment. So some in-patient settings have switched to using metered dosed inhalers, which has impacted the availability of these inhalers in community pharmacies. We’re trying to anticipate these changes and have the medications that patients need on hand so everyone has continued access to their medications. It’s really something that’s hard to predict at this time, though.
What’s the global impact of COVID-19 on the future of the pharmacy industry? Will we be better prepared next time?
I feel that everyone’s learning about how to respond to a pandemic and new infectious diseases, as we’re learning how to accelerate research and development and clinical trials to bring solutions to the community. For instance, we’ve been able to increase the speed of approvals of antibody testing and different COVID-19 testing procedures. At the same time, we’re also exploring which medications would be effective and implementing clinical trials. I think living through this experience is going to make everybody more prepared to respond to a similar situation. If it does happen again, we’ll have this experience to pull upon and see what worked, what didn’t work and how we could do better.
Do you see this pandemic validating how important it is for patient, doctor, nurse and pharmacist to work together to achieve the most optimal care?
This pandemic has definitely emphasized the need for different health care professionals to work together in order to identify how to best treat the patient. The other thing that has happened is that we’ve seen pharmacists in the community taking responsibility for some of the ongoing care of patients, while physicians and other health care providers have been focused on the care of COVID-19 patients. A lot of our faculty and students have been working with health care providers in the community in order to offer telemedicine consultations and evaluate how patients at home are responding to medications for chronic diseases, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Through this medication monitoring, we are making sure that everybody sheltering at home is taking care of their health and their conditions. It’s been a real nice collaboration between health care providers in all settings to take care of all of our patients.
We’re hearing there has been an uptick in poisoning cases since the pandemic began. What is happening?
In the past three months, we have seen more accidental poisonings in the home than usual. This is because more people are staying at home and cleaners and disinfectants are more accessible to small children. I want to make sure everyone thinks about that and keeps their medications and any cleaning products out of the reach of children.
Also, since everyone is at home more right now, this is a great time to clean out medicine cabinets. Look for any meds that are not being used or expired and bring them in to be destroyed. Most pharmacies, including the Auburn University Employee Pharmacy, have a medication take back bin. By collecting medications this way, they can be disposed of properly and safely.
About the Harrison School of Pharmacy
Auburn University’s Harrison School of Pharmacy is ranked among the top 20 percent of all pharmacy schools in the United States, according to U.S. News & World Report. Fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), the School offers doctoral degrees in pharmacy (Pharm.D.) and pharmaceutical sciences (Ph.D.) while also offering a master’s in pharmaceutical sciences. The School’s commitment to world-class scholarship and interdisciplinary research speaks to Auburn’s overarching Carnegie R1 designation that places Auburn among the top 100 doctoral research universities in the nation. For more information about the School, please call 334.844.8348 or visit http://pharmacy.auburn.edu.
Last Updated: May 28, 2020