Pharmacists nationwide are implementing social distancing as patients pick-up prescriptions.
Community pharmacists have been directed by health authorities to ask patients with respiratory complaints to wait in their car while a prescription is filled out and to place a phone in consultation rooms in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
The HSE is advising anyone with coronavirus to continue taking any medication they were already taking, unless advised otherwise by a healthcare professional.
This includes anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen, naproxen or diclofenac.
The advise comes in response to false information about anti-inflammatory medicine and Covid-19 which has been shared on social media over the last 24 hours.
The HSE says there is no evidence to stop taking any medication at this time, and says there is no need for people to order more medicines than they need.
“Only take one anti-inflammatory medication at a time. It is okay to take paracetemol and an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen at the same time," said Dr Colm Henry, Chief Clinical Officer of the HSE.
“We are constantly evaluating emerging evidence about the most appropriate treatment of Covid-19.
"There is no specific treatment for coronavirus but many of the symptoms of the virus can be treated.
"If you get the virus, your healthcare professional will advise treatment based on your symptoms.
"The appropriate medication for an individual with symptoms of Covid-19 will depend on your symptoms, your other conditions and your other medication.”
Interim guidance which was issued by the HSE and Health Protection Surveillance Centre has asked pharmacists to put in place restrictions to limit the exposure of other customers without causing “undue distress or embarrassment” to a potential patient.
Pharmacists have been told to rapidly identify and direct individuals who present with respiratory complaints and who ask for a consultation.
The Pharmacy Union has said that advice from health authorities that consideration should be given to asking patients with respiratory tract infection to wait in their car while their prescription is being filled, if they travelled by car.
The advice also says that there should be a “clearly designated area” for consultations and that pharmacists should check if that area allows for a physical separation of one metre.
“If a patient presents with a relevant travel history and coronavirus (also known as Covid-19) symptoms, there is provision being made for testing in the pharmacy by public health teams if the person cannot return home.”
The advice continues that, “most patients who present to community pharmacists are unlikely to have the virus, however, it is essential that pharmacists maintain awareness of the up to date information on the epidemiology of Covid-19 in Ireland.”
Queues outside pharmacies around the country have been reported to the Union with many outlets keeping doors closed allowing customers in one at a time.
In a statement the Union reassured the public that the 1,900 pharmacies in the country would remain open.
“Pharmacists will continue to perform their vital role as a first point of contact for people with our health care system.”
PU Secretary General Darragh O’ Loughlin said: “We remain in close contact with public health officials and have reassured them that pharmacists and pharmacies are available to help and support the health service in any way we can, including the dissemination of information and advice to the public.”
He reiterated the warning that there is absolutely no need for the public to stockpile any medicines.
“While pharmacies have experienced an understandable increase in demand in recent days, there are no supply shortages; stockpiling is completely unnecessary and, in fact, could itself trigger drug shortages,” he added.
The Irish Pharmacy Union issued the following advice for people not to stockpile any medicine or purchase medication you do not need.
One month’s supply of prescription medicines is the maximum quantity allowed by the HSE under the GMS or other Community Drug Scheme.
Individuals who require medication on a regular basis should ensure their prescriptions are up to date.
Patients or carers are asked, if possible, to phone the pharmacy in advance to request that their prescription be dispensed for a particular time/date so that the pharmacy can have it ready when they come in.
Check with elderly family members and neighbours to make sure they have their medicines and, if necessary, help them to contact the pharmacy if they need advice or information.
People who have been to an affected place in the last 14 days, or who have had contact with someone with coronavirus, or who are exhibiting fever, cough or other respiratory symptoms of Covid-19 should not attend at a pharmacy or GP clinic.
Instead, they should stay at home and phone their GP or local HSE helpline without delay.