Industry Trends Report Shows Impact of COVID-19 on Pharmacy Claims and Access to Community Pharmacy


Use of pharmacies, use patterns among hypothetical treatments for COVID-19, and drug use patterns have all been affected by the pandemic.

The 2021 Pharmacy Quality Industry Trends Report sponsored by Pharmacy Quality Solutions (PQS) focuses on the impact of COVID-19 on pharmacy claims and access to community pharmacies in 2020. This report tracks prescribing trends from the announcement of the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) through year-end and highlights associated mitigation approaches that may have impacted drug and drug use patterns.

The 3-section report covers changes in pharmacy use, usage patterns among hypothetical treatments for COVID-19, and drug use patterns impacted by COVID-19.

“2020 has been a unique year and we had to approach this year’s trend report differently, as it is based on measurement data from 2020,” said Nancy Chung, COO of PQS. “Rather than directly comparing data from year to year, this analysis assesses how weekly prescription claims volume has changed, relative to baseline, based on date of service and number of requests for 2020. We have included the same trend analysis for 2019 for comparison. We hope that this report will serve as a benchmark on the impact of the pandemic on drug use. “

A notable graphic from the Industry Trends report highlights the change in all complaints for pharmacy usage. The graph below shows an increase in pharmacy use for all claims, starting at week 9 and peaking at week 12, when the public health emergency was declared.

There is a significant decrease after week 12, with usage dropping sharply to levels well below the previous year of 2019. Pharmacy usage was also low in fall 2020, which may be due to the resurgence of COVID-19.

A prime example of the abnormal use of hypothetical treatments for COVID-19 is the dramatic increase in demands for hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) in March 2020. The graph below follows an overall increase in prescription demands for HCQ with 14 days or so. less supply for the use of HCQ and those without.

The only indication approved by the FDA for short courses of HCQ is to treat acute attacks of malaria, generally a very rare case in the United States. HCQ is also used as a chronic medication for the treatment of lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

The dramatic increase in the use of this drug with a 14-day or less supply suggests that it was being prosecuted for an unapproved indication of COVID-19 therapy by the FDA. Use fell sharply after HCQ came into the limelight as COVID-19 therapy in May 2020, versus its use for COVID-19 therapy.

Looking at drug use patterns affected by COVID-19, another graph from the 2021 Trend Report shows the evolution of overall antibiotic prescription use.

The graph above shows that overall antibiotic prescription requests declined near the declaration of COVID-19 PHE and continued to remain below normal levels throughout 2020 after the emergency was declared. public health, compared to 2019.

This may be due to the following factors:

  • Decreased exposure to pathogens because more Americans spent more time at home where the risk of exposure is low.
  • Decreased healthcare use due to anxiety about COVID exposure and increased referrals.

Use approached normal levels to some extent during the summer of 2020 compared to 2019, but was again phased out until the fall of 2020, likely matching the new wave of COVID infections at fall 2020.

Data from the 2021 Trend Report: We analyzed claims and other data from a subset of healthcare plans and pharmacy benefit managers, representing a total patient count of approximately 25.4 million and 27.1 million, between 2019 and 2020 respectively. Prescription claims were associated with the Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug Plans (MAPD) ​​and Stand-Alone Prescription Drug Plans (PDP) lines of business.

For more information on pharmacy quality, please download the full report, the Pharmaceutical Quality Industry Trends Report 2021, on the PQS website.

At PQS, we’re always on the lookout for new ideas to analyze and explore! We appreciate your comments and contributions for future reports. If you would like to share your feedback with us, please drop us a note at [email protected]

About Pharmacy Quality Solutions, Inc (PQS)

PQS is a healthcare quality improvement company, connecting payers and healthcare providers who value measurement as the path to better patient outcomes. PQS partners represent nearly 90% of all Medicare Part D lives and 95% of community pharmacies. PQS provides the quality information and advice necessary to support its clients’ efforts to optimize the quality of medication management for their Medicare, Medicaid and commercial populations. PQS’s industry-leading platform, EQUIPP®, provides standardized metrics and reports on key metrics of the quality of drug use and value-based reimbursement programs focused on treatment adherence, treatment outcomes and patient safety. For more information on how PQS can help you, please visit

For more information, contact David Simoneaux at 919.767.9544 or [email protected]


Comments are closed.