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Webinar Panelist Discusses COVID-19 and Hematology Oncology Pharmacy

Web Exclusives — August 11, 2020

The Journal of Hematology Oncology Pharmacy (JHOP), the peer-reviewed forum for oncology pharmacy practice, was named the official journal of the Hematology Oncology Pharmacy Association (HOPA) in 2019. JHOP now serves as a platform through which HOPA members can disseminate original research findings, exchange best practices, and find support for its growing community.

“HOPA is excited about the affiliation. The journal has been a great vehicle for members to promote their research,” said the association’s 2020/2021 president, David DeRemer, PharmD, BCOP, FCCP, FHOPA, Clinical Associate Professor, University of Florida College of Pharmacy. In addition, JHOP provides a base from which HOPA aims to advance the expanded role of the pharmacist in the setting of COVID-19.

Dr DeRemer recently participated in the Association for Value-Based Cancer Care (AVBCC) webinar series COVID-19 Recovery, the Road Ahead. This groundbreaking program, featuring compelling and cutting-edge discussions with experts and key opinion leaders from across the oncology space, is produced and hosted by AVBCC. In each hour-long moderated session, key stakeholders delve into some of the crucial and emerging issues as the healthcare system in general, and the oncology ecosystem in particular, grapple with the changes wrought by the coronavirus pandemic.

The series director, AVBCC Founder and Co-Chair Burt Zweigenhaft, PhD, D.Litt, has assembled an impressive faculty roster for the program, which is presented weekly in a multiple-day format. The series returned from a brief hiatus on July 14. The webinars are presented live, with a rebroadcast later in the day. They are also available on the AVBCC website. The series will be broadcast through the summer. Listeners who tuned in for the series during its spring run, or who are familiar with the annual AVBCC Summit, know that these conversations will be insightful and informative as well as candid.

Following the live broadcast of the episode in which he was a featured presenter, “Potential for Cancer Agents in the Treatment of COVID-19,” Dr DeRemer answered a few questions about the recent installation of JHOP as the official HOPA journal and offered his insights regarding the ways in which the pandemic has affected the oncology pharmacy environment.

Acknowledging that the past several months have been a challenging time for pharmacists, he said that most of his colleagues are now in phase 3 or 4 of their pandemic management plans and have returned to work. He stated that there had been concern earlier in the pandemic, as many facilities were shutting down for an unspecified time, that this would negatively impact the work of individual pharmacists or disrupt the progress of their investigations.

Dr DeRemer noted that the pharmacy world overall has been in active support of the accelerated rate of pharmaceutical research and the rapid interventions in the treatment of COVID-19 patients. Pharmacists have supported several measures in response to the pandemic, including the adoption of telehealth initiatives and making substantive guideline recommendations vis-à-vis testing and billing for pharmaceutical agents. He noted that community pharmacists have made an important contribution in their efforts to expedite treatment of COVID-19 patients. HOPA, through its Public Policy Committee, put forth organizational efforts to, inter alia, work with the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to make changes in policies, advocate for student loan forgiveness for graduates of pharmacy programs, and reach out to the membership for additional means of support.

Regarding the use of cancer agents in the fight against the coronavirus, a subject he discussed in the webinar, he predicted there will be a movement to prescribe off-label cancer drugs to treat COVID-19 patients. Although he has not yet seen a “significant increase in drug shortages,” as had been initially feared, he did state that “dexamethasone is starting to be in shorter supply.” It is made by only a handful of companies and some promising findings in a recent UK study showed significant improvement among the sickest patients (ie, those on mechanical ventilation), when they received dexamethasone and azithromycin in combination. Dr DeRemer added that there will be additional data from phase 2 trials available in the fall that will shed more light on this question.

Dr DeRemer also briefly discussed the current situation in which many patients are delaying screenings for cancer and other serious illnesses, and as a result, presenting for care at more advanced stages of illness. While he believes that many patients are still getting treatment, the fear of contracting the virus remains a significant obstacle to care and is a risk for patients with more advanced cancer. He predicted this will likely continue at least until 2021 as patients continue to avoid visiting large medical centers. The possibility of contagion adds an additional burden of disparity to those that already exist in the treatment of cancer and puts the sickest patients at greater risk, he said.

To learn more about the webinar series, visit the AVBCC website and subscribe to JHOP here.

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