A proposal that would allow pharmacists to administer flu tests and administer medication is being held up in the Legislature, despite the fact the state Department of Health describes the current outbreak as ‘widespread.’
“Obviously there is widespread activity from this year’s flu season across the United States. It’s something that hasn’t happened in over 13 years,” said Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, one of the sponsors of the bill. “There are over a hundred people a day who die from the flu (in the U.S.) and this will provide an easier way for people to be tested.”
So far this flu season, there have been more than 300 flu outbreaks in Florida with 14 reported deaths. Brandes wants to ease the burden currently being put on doctors’ offices and emergency rooms across the state.
Backers of the legislation say allowing pharmacists to administer flu tests would also help patients by providing a convenient location to be tested. They say the pharmacy is where flu patients typically end up in order to get their medication, so why not allow them to be tested there as well.
When a person is diagnosed with the flu, they are usually prescribed TamiFlu which is best used within 48 hours of the first symptom. Pharmacists would also be allowed to prescribe the drug for those who test positive for the flu.
“You have a Phd-trained pharmacist at every pharmacy,” said Rep. Rene Plasencia, R-Orlando, who is backing the bill in the House. “That pharmacist is going to be able to make sure you get the test and ultimately dispense the drugs that are needed.”
The idea has its critics, including the Florida Medical Association. The FMA says its not the flu that kills people, but rather the complications that come with it, such as pneumonia. The medical group says pharmacists don’t have the proper training to make the right diagnosis.
But one doctor, who happens to also be a state representative, thinks allowing pharmacists to administer the flu test is a good idea.
“I would tell them if they had an empty waiting room and would take a call from their patient that morning to be seen then they have reason to complain,” said Rep. Cary Pigman, R-Avon Park. “I have reason to believe that all of us physicians are so busy, our offices are filled, our emergency department waiting rooms are filled, that we ought to welcome another set of expert hands to help us take care of people.”