Today, the Biden administration announced the expansion of the national test-to-treat program, which was designed to improve access to COVID-19 antiviral oral medications for certain high-risk patients. The administration is planning to take the following actions:
- Expand the availability of the program from 20,000 to 40,000 locations in the coming weeks;
- Allow pharmacies participating in the federal antiviral pharmacy program to order medications free from the federal government (pharmacies can also continue to receive medications through state/territory arrangements and/or the test-to-treat program);
- Stand up new test-to-treat sites that include a co-located provider so that medications can be prescribed and dispensed in the same setting; and
- Ramp up prescriber education and patient awareness programs for COVID-19 oral antivirals.
Although the expansion of the program should help increase the availability and awareness of oral antivirals, to achieve widespread access to these treatments, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) needs to remove its barrier to pharmacists prescribing the medications.
“We welcome all efforts to increase the availability of these critical medications, but this misses an opportunity to remove a significant access barrier in the test-to-treat program,” said Tom Kraus, ASHP vice president of government relations. “Despite the recent success of pharmacists ordering COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments, FDA’s emergency use authorization (EUA) for oral antivirals does not allow pharmacists to prescribe these medications. Updating the EUA to be consistent with current pharmacist prescribing authority would greatly expand the number of true one-stop pharmacies throughout the country without the need to stand up new sites or force patients to jump through hoops to access an authorized prescriber during the very short treatment window.”
ASHP has raised the EUA limitation with the administration repeatedly, and we will continue to work closely with our partner organizations to push for the broadest possible COVID-19 treatment access for our patients and communities.