Although not a direct result of the COVID-19 virus pandemic, it gives patients another option to determine whether their illness is the flu or more serious.

Gov. Ron DeSantis late Wednesday signed into law a bill that will allow pharmacists to test and treat Floridians for flu, strep throat and some other non-chronic conditions, under certain circumstances.


The legislation — which both the Florida House and Senate approved Wednesday — takes effect July 1.


The bill was sponsored in the House by Rep. Tyler Sirois, R-Merritt Island, who has been pushing for such legislation since early 2019.


Although the measure was not a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic, it would give patients another option to determine whether their illness is a common flu or potentially something more serious.


“With all that is going on in the world, now is the time to normalize our pharmacists as a point of contact for folks to receive care,” Sirois said in a statement.


The measure — House Bill 389 — authorizing pharmacists acting under a written agreement with a supervising physician to test and treat Floridians for flu, strep throat, minor infections and other non-chronic conditions. Also covered are skin conditions and lice.


Under the bill, pharmacists are required to advise patients to follow up with a primary-care physician when receiving services and to abide by other procedures developed by the Board of Pharmacy, in consultation with the Florida Board of Medicine.


Physicians also may enter into individual collaborative practice agreements, so pharmacists can provide specific services to specific patients, such as evaluating drug therapy and monitoring treatments.


"This bill is about giving patients more choices," Sirois said during House debate on the bill. "This bill will reduce costs."


Sirois said that, under current Florida law, a flu patient’s options have been limited to seeing a physician, going to an urgent-care facility or going to the emergency room.


"The flu is very serious, and this legislation will provide Floridians without insurance, or who cannot afford urgent care or emergency services, with a treatment option that is affordable," Sirois said.


Sirois noted that "Florida is aging, and the demands on our health care system are growing each day. The future of health care will be found in the marketplace, where competition drives innovation and entrepreneurship."


Sirois said the bill also is intended to reduce the demands on physician offices by delegating some functions to a pharmacist.


Participation by pharmacists, physicians and patients is voluntary.


Sirois' bill was approved 98-17 in the House, with support from the four Republican House members representing Brevard County — Sirois, Thad Altman, Randy Fine and Rene Plasencia.


Sen. Travis Hutson, R–St. Augustine, was the sponsor of the companion legislation in the Florida Senate. It was approved 28-12 in the Senate, with support from the two Republican Senate members representing Brevard — Debbie Mayfield and Tom Wright.


Under the bill, to practice collaboratively with a physician, a pharmacist must complete a 20-hour Board of Pharmacy-approved course and maintain liability insurance coverage of at least $250,000.


The Board of Pharmacy also must develop a formulary of drugs that a pharmacist may prescribe for the conditions covered by the legislation, and those drugs cannot include any controlled substances.


Dave Berman is government editor at FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Berman at 321-242-3649 or dberman@floridatoday.com. Twitter: @bydaveberman


This story originally published to floridatoday.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the USA TODAY Network - Florida.