A Facebook group with more than 30,000 members is helping pharmacists, pharmacy techs, managers and students pull together to find solutions to the new challenges of operating during the COVID-19 pandemic. Jaclyn Boyle, Pharm.D. (’12), associate professor of pharmacy practice in the Northeast Ohio Medical University College of Pharmacy, and Carl Palladino, a second-year pharmacy student, manage the group, called “Pharmacy Staff for COVID-19 Support.”
Abagail Agler, Pharm.D., assistant professor of pharmacy practice, and Daniel Arendt, Pharm.D., clinical assistant professor of pharmacy practice, are also on the support team.
New challenges, new communication channels
“This pandemic is unprecedented. Pharmacists are on the frontlines and are at very high risk for catching the disease,” says Palladino, who became an administrator in the group’s first few days. “This group is a tremendous sign of the ability of the pharmacy profession to come together and advocate for the protection of the profession.”
Members communicate throughout the day, calling on each other when they need help with tasks – anything from converting pharmacies to drive-through-only facilities to installing barriers to keep pharmacy staff safe without disrupting communication with their customers. Group members also ask each other for advice on how to advocate for workplace safety concerns.
In one case, the group brought attention to a topic that was in the public eye and brought about a policy change aimed at public safety.
Protecting the public
Pharmacists in the Facebook group began talking to each other when they noticed a spike in prescriptions for hydroxychloroquine (or chloroquine), alone or paired with azithromycin as a possible COVID-19 treatment – a treatment that was untested. They also observed these medications being stockpiled and overprescribed.
So, Dr. Boyle and Palladino teamed up with the administrative team running the Facebook Group, the Ohio Pharmacists Association (OPA) and the Ohio Society of Health-Systems Pharmacists. Palladino wrote to State Rep. Randi Clites, who represents much of Portage County. The OPA gathered information and observations from members of the Facebook group. And the pharmacy organizations worked together to draft statements to Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s office, presenting a united front regarding their concerns.
As a result, the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy held an emergency meeting and imposed restrictions on the dispensing of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine.
This group has already caused major changes to political and corporate policy to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19,” notes Palladino. “It is incredible to witness people from across the globe come together to solve this unprecedented issue.”