Pharmacy panel critiques Legislature over flu tests

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A state pharmacy board on Monday criticized the Florida Legislature for not passing a bill that would have allowed Florida pharmacists to test and treat people for the flu and strep throat.

Members of the Board of Pharmacy Legislative Committee exchanged stories about the costly bills their family members incurred after undergoing flu tests at emergency departments.

Florida Board of Pharmacy member Blanca Rivera said her 27-year old daughter, who is uninsured, thought she had the flu and went to the emergency room.

“The bill was $13,000 and she was there for about three, four hours,” Rivera said. “They did MRIs and everything else that goes with it. So it’s significant.”

Though the apex of the 2017-18 flu season has passed, Florida continues to have higher than usual influenza activity, according to the Florida Department of Health. As of March 17, 239 pneumonia and influenza deaths had been reported to the state. Six pediatric deaths have been associated with the flu. None of the children had been vaccinated, according to the health department.

Rivera’s story involved the highest costs, but it wasn't the only one shared.

Jacksonville pharmacist Jeenu Philip, chairman of the Legislative Committee, said his wife racked up a $1,000 bill emergency department bill after being examined for flu-like symptoms.

During the legislative session that ended last month, lawmakers failed to pass a proposal (SB 524) that would have authorized pharmacists, who have established written protocols with physicians and maintain $200,000 in professional liability insurance, to test and treat for influenza virus and streptococcal infections.