Rapid diagnostic testing for strep throat recently got a nice shout-out from Dr. Oz on his highly-rated daily TV show. The prominent heart surgeon gave a real-time demonstration of the rapid antigen detection test for strep, which delivers results in five minutes. Oz said, “I’m hopeful one day we’ll be able to get this in pharmacies.”
That hope to improve patient outcomes could be closer to becoming a widespread reality, thanks in part to the vision and support of the NACDS Foundation, which is funding research grants with the University of Nebraska College of Pharmacy and the Ferris State College of Pharmacy to allow patients to be tested for strep and influenza in a consortium of 80 participating pharmacies in the Midwest. For the strep tests, specially trained and certified pharmacists screen patients for potential group A Streptococcus, the bacteria that causes strep throat, and then perform the same kind of rapid test Dr. Oz touted on his program.
Aaron Jennissen, vice president of pharmacy operations for Thrifty White Pharmacy, one of the participating pharmacies, said having the tests available in pharmacies “gives patients another point of access to healthcare.”
Thanks to advancements in technology and a better understanding of the disease process, diagnosis and treatment of strep throat in adults has improved significantly. Identifying the illness quickly speeds the time to treatment, which improves patient outcomes. Because the strep test yields accurate results quickly, the pharmacist is able to administer it in the community pharmacy setting and dispense antibiotics on the spot—if needed—with the direction of a physician participating in the study. This streamlined process allows the patient to move from diagnosis to treatment without a visit to the doctor’s office and without the wait for a traditional throat culture, which can take 24-48 hours to obtain.
Accurate and and timely diagnosis may also help to avoid inappropriate or excessive use of antibiotics—a public health concern strongly voiced by the CDC, which estimates that each year in the United States at least two million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of those infections.
Dr. Oz’s support for rapid diagnostic testing in pharmacies shows he understands, as a physician, the need for better and more convenient access to care for patients, which leads to improved outcomes and reduced overall healthcare costs. It’s a win-win all the way around.