Last month, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a COVID-19 testing pilot program for 5,000 independent pharmacies statewide that will result in 7,000 diagnostic tests per week and that the federal government will procure testing kits and PPE on behalf of New York State, which will in turn provide the materials to independent pharmacies.
Steve Moore, president of the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York (PSSNY), told this paper about the importance of the pilot program, in particular for New York City.
“The pilot program is not meant to restrict pharmacies, and pharmacists that aren’t necessarily involved in the pilot program are still able to test, but testing in New York is not as simple as going out and getting tested,” he explained. “There are some things pharmacies and pharmacists have to do, and the pilot program is an effort to remove barriers and give pharmacies testing a little quicker than they would be if left up to our own devices.”
The state is going to be working with Health and Human Services (HSS) and will provide the tests to the pharmacies in the pilot program, which removes a big obstacle, according to Moore.
“There are only so many tests available and so many tests that are FDA approved,” he said. “The idea that colleagues are being provided with the tests so we don’t have to spend all of our times sourcing and asking if it’s a quality test or not is a big time relief. We want to make sure results that our patients receive are accurate.”
He added that in New York State, there are 5,000 community pharmacies and 2,500 are independent.
“We are unique in that sense,” Moore said. “You don’t usually see 50 percent of the pharmacies in the state be independent anymore. It goes to show we need all our pharmacies and all our community practitioners working together to reach all New York stations.”
“Pharmacists are some of the most accessible health care professionals,” Moore said, “It’s an area where we really feel we can make a difference for our patients and community.
The government will also offer PPE.
“We are excited about that,” Moore said. “It has been in short supply. Just making sure we have the appropriate PPE to make sure our patients and pharmacies are safe is incredibly important.”
The pilot program also includes testing for COVID-19, however pharmacies hope to receive the antibody test in the future.
“In the pilot program, we are going to be doing the diagnostic test and that’s going to be testing for active infection so that’s going to be done according to the criteria of the department of health already laid out,” Moore said. “That’s important because you want to know who has the infection and spread unintentionally.”
Currently, Brooklyn has six pharmacies participating: A and V Pharmacy, 8501 4th Ave.; Neergard Pharmacy 454 5th Ave.; Rossi Pharmacy 1891 Eastern Pkwy; Shalom’s Pharmacy, Inc., 1106 Avenue K; St. Jude’s Pharmacy, 121 St. Nicholas Ave; and Unity Drugs, 772 Grand St.
“These are the people we want to get healthy back to work and their lives back to a new normal,” he said. “This is a great opportunity for our community-based providers to help our communities come back in a safe manner.
It’s an appointment-based model.
“The pharmacies will announce when they receive the materials and start tests,” he said. “Stay in touch with your pharmacists.”