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Plan to give pharmacists more authority tabled

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Sen. Jeff Brandes, R- St. Petersburg, agreed Tuesday to defer a proposal that would authorize some pharmacists to test and treat customers for the influenza virus and streptococcal infections but promised he’ll be back next year with a better version of the bill.

“It’s all about access,” Brandes said of the proposal (SB 524), which would have authorized pharmacists with established written protocols with physicians and who maintain $200,000 in professional liability insurance, to test and treat for influenza virus and streptococcal infections.

The bill, which had been slated for action Tuesday by the Senate Health Policy Committee, was opposed by physicians who said pharmacists were not trained to treat or diagnose the illnesses.

But supporters said the Food and Drug Administration has approved more than 10 rapid diagnostic tests to screen for influenza and that the tests can provide results within about 15 minutes.

Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, said she would have supported the bill but questioned what people would do once they were told they had the flu.

She said that it can take weeks to see a doctor after scheduling an appointment and that people need to be able to get treatment sooner.

Brandes said his bill was about increasing access to care and that he would work on her concerns.