'Test-to-treat' program too narrow, risky, medical groups say

The American Pharmacists Association and American Medical Association have expressed concerns about the scope and safety of the White House's "test-to-treat" program

The initiative, announced March 1, involves using pharmacy-based clinics as "one-stop shops" where people who receive a positive COVID-19 test result can be seen by a clinician and receive antiviral therapy, all in one visit. The White House said hundreds of one-stop sites will be made available nationwide in March.

The American Pharmacists Association said the program should be expanded to include more pharmacies.

"Although we are pleased the administration recognizes the access and care pharmacies provide, we are disappointed that the current plan is narrow and does not enable any willing and able pharmacy to be a 'test-to-treat' pharmacy through this initiative," the association said March 3. "We hope to see this program expand as the supply of COVID-19 oral antivirals increases, thereby allowing more pharmacies to participate, providing broader access to care."

The group also said it will continue to work with the federal government to eliminate barriers that prevent pharmacists from prescribing antivirals or receiving appropriate reimbursement. 

The American Medical Association called the initiative "well intentioned" and praised the Biden administration for working to make antivirals broadly available. However, the group said the current plan is "extremely risky" as pharmacy-based clinics usually treat simple illnesses. 

"COVID-19 is a complex disease, and there are many issues to consider when prescribing COVID-19 antiviral medications," the AMA said. "Leaving prescribing decisions this complex in the hands of people without knowledge of a patient's medical history is dangerous in practice and precedent."

The group is urging patients who test positive for COVID-19 to discuss treatment options with their physicians. 

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