GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — With cases of influenza rising across the Midwest, mass-merchandise retailer Meijer is participating in a new study by offering free testing for flu and strep throat at its stores in Michigan and allowing its pharmacists to dispense prescription drugs as necessary under a protocol developed by a physician who's also involved, the 204-store chain said Wednesday.
Under the program, pharmacists at Meijer's stores will administer the tests and, in some cases, fill a prescription for flu drugs under a protocol set by a physician participating in a study for which Meijer is collaborating with Ferris State University and the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy to examine the effectiveness of rapid diagnostic testing and the process by which medicines are administered to patients for influenza and strep throat in pharmacies.
"This is not a replacement of physician services," Meijer VP pharmacy operations Karen Mankowski said. "Increasing accessibility to testing for flu and strep throat and enabling pharmacists to work from those results means that patients might self-treat symptoms less and get better more quickly. That decreases the risk of spreading those common illnesses and allows doctors and nurse practitioners to provide care to patients with more complicated conditions."
Before the study, pharmacists at the retailer underwent a training certification program developed by a team from the two universities and sanctioned by the Michigan Pharmacists Association to administer the noninvasive Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment-waived rapid tests.
"Many of us forget how many people come to the pharmacy first anyway when they have symptoms for flu and strep," said UNMC physician and principal study investigator Donald Klepser, who is conducting the study on a grant from the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Foundation. "Stand at your pharmacy during cold and flu season and see how many people ask the pharmacist, 'What should I take for this?'"