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NPA: Change guidance to let pharmacies offer COVID-19 antibody tests

NPA: Pharmacists could reinforce COVID-19 public health messaging after tests.
NPA: Pharmacists could reinforce COVID-19 public health messaging after tests.

The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has called on Public Health England (PHE) to “iron out discrepancies” in its guidance that stop pharmacies from conducting COVID-19 tests.

Community pharmacies “should be allowed to offer tests” for COVID-19 antibodies, “as long as they comply with the relevant devices regulations as set out by Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA),” the NPA said last week (October 16).

Currently, such tests are not recommended by PHE for use in a community setting, a stance that “is disputed” by the NPA, the representative body said

However, the NHS in England offering rapid antibody tests for the virus for adult social care workers at test sites. Social care workers can also register to receive an at-home rapid antibody test kit.

In Wales, workers who care for others in their homes are eligible for the at-home antibody tests while in Norther Ireland, primary care staff – including pharmacists – are also eligible.

“Inconsistency makes no sense”

NPA board member Olivier Picard said the fact that “members of the public can take a sample themselves in their own home and find out whether they have COVID-19 antibodies, but a qualified pharmacist cannot administer a test within a registered pharmacy... [is an] inconsistency [that] makes no sense”, and called on PHE to update its guidance to “catch up with the facts on the ground”.

Pharmacists are “well placed” to give patients advice and support after a test and to “reinforce COVID-19 public health messages”, Mr Picard said.

They would also “remind anyone testing positive that a positive test result does not mean you are immune from the virus”, he added.

Dr Jake Dunning, COVID-19 incident director for PHE, confirmed to C+D today (October 19) that the organisation “does not currently recommend rapid antibody tests for home use or in pharmacy settings because there are concerns about the accuracy of positive or negative results”.

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) said earlier this year (July 21) that it is “not appropriate” for community pharmacies to sell or recommend COVID-19 rapid response antibody tests.

Do you think pharmacies should be allowed to conduct rapid antibody tests?

Meera Sharma, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

Surely Olivier Picard and the NPA could have picked up the phone to PHE and asked for clarification rather than waiting around and getting C&D to do it for them?  Less moaning and more action. 

M. Rx(n), Student

BUT, not at the expense of the Pharmacist's and their team's daily jobs. Those duties are just as important and are currently operating at shoestring budget levels.

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