Midwestern University Chicago College of Pharmacy and Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital
As we started seeing positive cases of COVID-19 in the state of Ilinois in early March, one of the biggest challenges facing the medical teams was the lack of any set of guidelines on how to manage these patients and lack of FDA-approved therapeutic options available to treat the patients being admitted to the hospital.
My role as a clinical infectious diseases pharmacist was to help create a therapeutic treatment guideline for treating COVID-19 patients based on the available literature. This involved sorting through hundreds of studies (most non-peer reviewed) to identify medications that may benefit our patients without causing harm. I worked closely with other infectious diseases pharmacists and physicians in developing protocols for our entire health system.
As a clinical pharmacist, I was also a drug information resource for questions about management of pediatric and pregnant COVID-19 patients, patients with other comorbidities, and patients with complicated past medical histories. As the number of cases grew in the country and the heavy demand for certain medications led to nationwide shortages, I worked with pharmacy leadership to come up with a plan for handling drug shortages. I also provided updates and education to our medical and pharmacy staff every step of the way.
On the research side, I helped obtain compassionate use remdesivir for one of our critically ill patients and helped enroll our hospital as a site for the remdesivir expanded access program. This involved working closely with the Institutional Review Board, the investigational drug team, the FDA, and the pharmaceutical company.
As we treat patients, we are faced with additional challenges and questions every day and our job as clinical pharmacists is to apply our knowledge and the latest information to the best of our abilities to help our patients. It is definitely a very challenging time to be an infectious diseases specialist, but a very rewarding time as well.
Radhika S. Polisetty, PharmD, BCIDP, BCPS AQ-ID, AAHIVP, is an associate professor of Pharmacy Practice /Infectious Diseases Specialist at Midwestern University Chicago College of Pharmacy/ Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital.