Hy-Vee stores in Omaha and Papillion are among 60 sites throughout three states to have trained pharmacists administering these tests, the results of which are available in minutes. If positive, pharmacists also will be able to fill prescriptions to treat identified illnesses, under a collaborative-practice agreement with prescribing physicians.
Community pharmacists are ideally suited to test and treat flu and strep quickly, professionally and cost-effectively, said Donald Klepser, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmacy practice and principal investigator on a National Association of Chain Drug Stores Foundation grant to administer the program and study the results.
Michael Klepser, Pharm.D., a pharmacist and infectious diseases specialist at Ferris State (and Dr. Klepser's brother), agreed, noting that people commonly self-treat for a day or two before going to the doctor. However, if a visit to the pharmacist is more accessible and convenient, people may not wait as long.
And the timing of treatment is the key factor in stopping the flu, said Alan Jensen, M.D., prescribing physician for the Hy-Vee sites.
"I'm a primary care doctor and my job is to take care of folks," said Dr. Jensen, an Omaha private practitioner and UNMC alumnus. "The quicker we can get them the medicine, the quicker we can abort the actual influenza. If we can have professionals -- through the pharmacists -- who can document that, yes, the patients have it, and we can treat it, I say, 'Let's do this.' "
The study's participating pharmacists have undergone a training certification program, developed by the UNMC-Ferris State team, to administer the noninvasive Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment (CLIA)-waived rapid tests.
The study also has scores of sites at pharmacies in Minnesota and Michigan.
The study is not intended to replace physician services, and customers may still need to visit their family health care providers.
Participants must be at least 19 and exhibit symptoms consistent with influenza or strep. Customers are urged to contact their Hy-Vee pharmacy if interested, as hours may vary.
The tests are free during the study, which runs through May for flu and August for strep.