While cases of monkeypox are currently on the decline, it is still vital to keep up to date on information.
We have fielded several questions from pharmacy owners asking how they can support their patients to combat monkeypox. Let’s dive into monkeypox and your pharmacy and what you can do to help your community.
Dr. Tara Newton, PharmD
We partnered with the fantastic Dr. Tara Newton from TD Pharmacy Services to update us about monkeypox.
Dr. Tara Newton is a pharmacy owner out of Oklahoma City who recently relocated to Lexington, Kentucky. She has a love for infectious diseases and an understanding of how they impact communities. She helped many patients with COVID testing, monoclonal antibodies, and more, so her knowledge here is vital in assisting pharmacy owners to be prepared.
September 2022 Numbers
Currently, there are over 25,000 reported cases in the United States, with California, Texas, Florida, and New York having over 500 cases each. The daily positive test trend is going downward. Here is a link to the CDC’s website where you can drill down into the data.
As a pharmacy owner, you need to be aware of these cases and their impact on your community to be prepared when patients come in with questions.
Monkeypox is similar to smallpox because it is an orthopoxvirus. The good thing about this is that we already have a lot of data on these types of viruses due to extensive research on smallpox. We can use this data to combat monkeypox, and its impacts, especially in countries like Africa.
Africa currently has the most monkeypox cases, with most patients in underserved communities. We can take all the information from Africa and use it to help prevent monkeypox from growing into the next pandemic.
Contrary to the central belief that this mainly affects homosexual men, pregnant women are at risk, children are at risk, and anyone can be at risk from it because something as simple as touching an open lesion of someone who has the infection can cause it to spread.
If you contract monkeypox, you will likely have a fever, bumps that start oozing, swollen lymph nodes, and possibly more symptoms. The good thing is if you follow the same protocols with COVID isolation, the monkeypox infection can end with you, and you can help stop the spread.
Testing for Monkeypox
The CDC is the leading organization testing in the United States. A few testing centers at large hospitals have complex machines that have also been contributing to testing in the United States.
It is possible that pharmacy owners may have access to tests that focus on monkeypox, much like the PCR tests for COVID, in the future. Easily accessible testing is an area where COVID taught the community about self-testing and in-pharmacy testing. Currently, there is no test a pharmacy can participate in.
Testing will be a vital part of treatment due to a limited supply of medications for monkeypox. Monkeypox can look like herpes and other types of diseases, so it is essential to ensure adequate testing is available so treatments are not wasted on someone who does not have monkeypox.
As of this writing, there are no approved treatments for monkeypox. Many drugs are approved for smallpox and can be used for monkeypox since it is from the same orthopoxvirus family. Tpoxx (Tecovirimat) is the preferred leading treatment at this point to combat the virus.
Pharmacists can recommend several other treatments to your community to help with the debilitating symptoms of monkeypox. Here’s a short list of possible suggestions:
- Clemastine – Rx only liquid antihistamine that can help reduce the intense itch and help patients sleep.
- Crotan Lotion – A topical lotion that helps block the sensation of itch.
Vaccinations and Prevention
The vaccine is designed to prevent smallpox and monkeypox and is taken in two doses, much like the COVID vaccine. You get your second dose four weeks after your first one and then wait another two weeks to be considered “fully vaccinated.” The vaccine is focused on pre-exposure, but taking it within four days of exposure can lessen your monkeypox symptoms.
Where To Get Started To Help With Monkeypox
As a pharmacy owner, you should start conversing with your local emergency medical centers. Your city, county, or state government agencies are great places to start. Talk to them about how you can get on the list to get the treatments once they become available.
One of the last things that pharmacy owners may want to consider is creating a monkeypox kit that does help with some of the symptoms of monkeypox—making a kit that has some Tylenol for fever, calamine lotion for the rash, some cough drops, etc. That way, if someone says they have monkeypox, you can tell them not to come in themselves but have something to offer the community to help reduce the impacts of their symptoms.
Luckily monkeypox cases are declining. However, your community expects you to be prepared as a pharmacy owner for any questions, vaccinations, symptoms, etc. We recommend you leverage social media to start educating your community. Even simple weekly updates of the numbers are helpful. Whether your local community numbers are low or high, they are still of high interest to your followers.
You can reach out to Dr. Tara at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 580-302-1611 to learn more.
If helping your community by offering point-of-care testing interests you, you may want to consider joining Pharmacy Badass University. We have an on-demand A to Z digital course that will walk you through the entire process of setting up your CLIA waived lab without spending countless hours or hiring employees.