Andrew Hanna Explains How COVID-19 Has Affected the Pharmacy Industry — Harcourt Health

Andrew Hanna, a practicing pharmacist from Ontario, explains the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic has affected his profession.

Since the first outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in China, the disease has come to dominate world medical care. Over 9,000 Canadians have died of COVID-19 as of September 2020, over 2,800 being Ontario residents. The coronavirus pandemic has had even more impact in other countries like the United States, where over 200,000 people died of the disease as of September 2020.

Origins of COVID in Canada

While tracking early cases of the coronavirus pandemic in Canada, it becomes clear that most of the infections came from travel to the United States, the Middle East, and Europe. COVID gained a foothold in larger cities like Ontario and Montreal, spreading eventually to the suburbs and rural areas. Fortunately, Canadian authorities were far more successful in containing the outbreak than their counterparts in the United States.

Pharmacies and COVID

Since pharmacists are the most accessible professionals in the field of health care, they are important to the management of the pandemic. Both community and specialty pharmacies are focal points of the delivery of health care in most Canadian cities and towns.

Pharmacies have provided community education as well as prescription and over-the-counter treatments for patients with COVID. They have also been resources for the community when they have questions about safety.

Pharmacies have stocked the newly crucial items including PPE or personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer, infra-red thermometers, and contract tracing mobile applications. Some pharmacies are also able to administer rapid COVID tests, enabling patients to have a quicker response to their illness or a faster negative test to help them resume their normal lives.

Pharmacies and Lockdowns

Despite the large-scale closure of many other types of businesses, pharmacies have remained open throughout the coronavirus pandemic. These businesses have needed to institute strict mask protocols and provide hand sanitizer to their employees and customers. In the absence of their family doctors, pharmacists have become even more important in managing health care. During the early months of the pandemic, long lines outside pharmacies were common due to social distancing requirements.

Demand for certain over-the-counter items has increased dramatically during the COVID pandemic. Hand sanitizer, masks, immune-boosting supplements, and forehead thermometers have become difficult to keep in stock. Pharmacies have needed to institute item limits in order to preserve their stocks for as many local residents as possible. These restrictions have made some residents frustrated, leaving pharmacists to bear the brunt of their displeasure.

Education

Pharmacists are equipped to provide education to the public regarding preparedness, prevention, response, and recovery. They should be able to tell a patient when they should visit their doctor for a test or receive one in the pharmacy itself.

Testing

Many pharmacies around the world have become able to give COVID tests, whether they use the regular test or the rapid test. This means that pharmacies must use even more stringent cleaning and disinfection schedules since sick patients could spread the disease to others.

The New Normal

Unfortunately, the dangerous effects of COVID-19 are likely to be felt well into 2021. While vaccines are in the middle stages of development, they will not be available for widespread use until the summer or fall of 2021. High-risk groups like healthcare workers and teachers may receive their immunizations more quickly.

When the vaccine is available, community pharmacies will take on a crucial role when it comes to administering it. This could put serious pressure on the staff at local pharmacies. Pharmacies may hire more qualified professionals as well as pharmacy technicians to help meet the demand for vaccine distribution.

Drug Shortages

One of the most serious challenges facing general and specialty pharmacies during and post-COVID will be drug shortages. Some drug manufacturers have closed or cut back their shifts, leaving pharmacists without some of their most useful medications. When some medications like hydroxychloroquine are touted as the next effective treatment, this will mean that patients with diseases like lupus may not be able to receive their accustomed medication. Pharmacists may need to work with doctors to find the best possible treatment for their patients under these circumstances.

Effects on Pharmacists Themselves

Pharmacists may be subject to burnout under these extreme circumstances. Especially if their pharmacies become understaffed due to the pandemic, they will find themselves with a higher workload and fewer hands to help with the work. Employers should be aware that the pandemic is causing difficulties for their pharmacists and provide appropriate support in any way possible.

The Importance of Pharmacies

The local pharmacy can be a valuable first line of defense against the COVID-19 pandemic. Providing patient education, over-the-counter medication, and important supplies like face mask and hand sanitizer are only a few of the ways in which pharmacists are helping with the pandemic. Andrew Hanna understands the increasing pressure on pharmacists and encourages local and national chains to support their staff appropriately, including hiring more staff if necessary.

Originally published at https://harcourthealth.com on October 15, 2020.

I am a certified compounding pharmacist and the founder of the pharmacy Cotton Mill Pharmacy, a specialty pharmacy that compounds prescriptions for clients.