Anticipating treatments for COVID-19: A conversation with a Regence clinical pharmacist

By Regence
July 15, 2020
holding prescriptions

Regence clinical pharmacist Matt Hafermann explains more about this important undertaking.

As worldwide efforts continue to find a COVID-19 vaccine and treatments for the virus, Regence is hard at work on assessing the safety of these potential medications. This effort is part of a partnership Regence announced last month with Tabula Rasa HealthCare®. Clinical pharmacist Matt Hafermann explains more about this important undertaking. Matt's answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Explain what exactly is a virtual clinical trial.

Virtual clinical trials are a relatively new tool in health care. These trials remove the researcher-to-patient interaction that defines a traditional clinical trial. Instead, new technologies and software can run simulations of an intervention (in this case, adding a medication that has potential against COVID-19) on a group of patients. This particular virtual trial used a database of de-identified Regence member information and calculated the potential impact of prospective COVID-19 treatments with a member’s current medications.

So essentially Regence is running simulations on potential COVID-19 treatment options and their impacts on members’ health?

There continues to be a big need for the assessment of potential COVID-19 treatments. Several medications that were already FDA approved for other conditions were studied to see if they could be repurposed to treat coronavirus patients. Other trials have looked at the efficacy and adverse effects of these medications. This trial looked at the adverse drug events associated with adding hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, alone or in combination with azithromycin, as well as the combination of lopinavir/ritonavir to the member’s current medication list.

By virtually simulating what happens when we add these medications to a patient’s current medication regimen, our study partner Tabula Rasa calculates a MedWise Risk ScoreTM. These scores quantify the added risk of drug interactions, and place members into a low, moderate, or high-risk category.

What will you do with these results?

The results of this trial will add to the body of evidence about these repurposed medications. Every medication essentially undergoes a risk/benefit analysis – this trial helps identify the risks of these prospective COVID-19 treatments in real-world scenarios. We look forward to the publication of our results later this summer, which will add to the fast-growing body of evidence for these medications and contribute to the worldwide effort to identify safe and effective COVID-19 treatments.

If members are concerned about potential adverse drug impacts, what can they do to protect themselves?

Studies like this one highlight the importance of discussing new or unfamiliar medications with your physician and/or pharmacist. It is important for members to keep an accurate list of their medications and to make sure their physician is aware of all the medications they are taking, including over-the-counter as well as dietary supplements. When starting a new medication, ask your pharmacist if there are any side effects or drug interactions.

Regence fully insured and Medicare members* also have access to MedSavvy, which allows you to compare medication grades, effectiveness, and out-of-pocket costs. It also includes online pharmacist consultations, plus safety and cost alerts to help you manage your medications.

As for COVID-19, despite the ongoing hard work of the entire medical community, it still may be awhile before we have a reliable treatment or vaccine. The best thing you can do right now is to develop good virus preventions strategies: frequently washing hands, wearing a mask when around others, frequently cleaning touched surfaces, and practicing physical distancing.


* MedSavvy is also a buy-up option for self-funded employer groups. Learn more about MedSavvy here.