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Chicago Pharmacist LawyerPharmacists are on the front line of patient health during a pandemic like COVID-19, and one of the main reasons is that patients, prescribers, and pharmacies do not know how the virus will impact the future of the international supply chain and drug manufacturing. Some believed that allowing patients to ‘stockpile’ larger than usual quantities of their prescription medications could cause drug shortages. Now, the DEA is more concerned with making sure patients have access to medications during the shelter-in-place orders.

Although the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, along with the Pharmacy Board, have not entered the fray, the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (Medicaid) provided for an override code for Refill Too Soon. This allows a 90-day supply for insulin and waives signature requirements for receipt of prescriptions. It remains to be seen if additional actions will occur by state government.

While the DEA is easing requirements, pharmacies should advocate for insurers to relax rules, too. CMS reminded Medicare Advantage Organizations and Part D sponsors of their inherent flexibility to remove prior authorizations requirements, waive prescription refill limits, and relax other restrictions. Pharmacists should recommend to patients (and possibly caregivers) to check prescription benefit coverages regarding early refills and supply limits.

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