Pharmacy: United in action for a healthier world

On this day pharmacists around the world need to take a pledge to maximise benefits and minimise hazards
"Regardless of conflicting ideologies, diverse politics, divergent cultures and economic disparities found among different nations pharmacists and other health workers need to stand united for the greater cause of healthcare."
"Regardless of conflicting ideologies, diverse politics, divergent cultures and economic disparities found among different nations pharmacists and other health workers need to stand united for the greater cause of healthcare."Rawpixels [Creative Commons]

World Pharmacists Day is celebrated every year on September 25th worldwide under the aegis of International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP). FIP is an international body representing over four million pharmacists, educators and pharmaceutical scientists from 123 countries around the world. It is a non-governmental organisation that was established on this very day in 1912 and has been having an official collaboration with World Health Organization (WHO) since 1948.

This year’s theme for the day has been chosen by FIP to be “Pharmacy: united in action for a healthier world” that aims to showcase pharmacy’s positive impact on health around the world and to further strengthen solidarity among the fellow professionals.

Regardless of conflicting ideologies, diverse politics, divergent cultures and economic disparities found among different nations pharmacists and other health workers need to stand united for the greater cause of healthcare.

While describing the main aim behind these celebrations, President of FIP, Dominique Jordan has stated that “The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal number 3 sets out a number of health targets for non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and mental health and communicable diseases like HIV, tuberculosis and neglected tropical diseases.

We have seen improvements in many of these areas and our profession should be proud of and therefore make known its contributions. However, COVID-19 pandemic has hindered the progress and it is imperative that we rally to build back better”.

Main purpose of World Pharmacists Day, which was brought to life at the FIP Council 2009 in Istanbul, was to encourage activities that promote and advocate the role of a pharmacist in improving health in every corner of the world.

Main objective of the World Pharmacist Day campaign is to raise awareness about the professional activities of a qualified pharmacist and to educate people on their significant role and crucial responsibilities in healthcare system and also to inculcate a sense of pride, solidarity and awareness among the pharmacy professionals at a global level.

Pharmacists represent the third largest healthcare professional group in the world and India too is home to more than ten lakh registered pharmacists. After bringing out Pharmaceutical Workforce Development Goals in 2016, FIP unveiled its “FIP Development Goals” on September 25 last year outlining measures needed to develop this profession in consonance with Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

This year FIP published a high-level committee report entitled, “Global Roadmap 2030: Sustainable advancement for pharmacy worldwide” that is meant for global transformation of pharmacy by 2030 by supporting United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and the FIP Development Goals. This report was unveiled on September 22 during the 80th World Congress of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Science in Seville, Spain.

Over the past few decades there has been a trend for pharmacy profession to move away from its original focus on medicine supply towards a more inclusive focus on patient care.

The role of a pharmacist has evolved from that of a compounder and supplier of pharmaceutical products towards that of a provider of services and information and ultimately that of a provider of patient care. Number of medication options have also multiplied manifold thus raising the complexity of therapies.

Pharmacists have a unique role to play in evaluating these options and utilize their knowledge and skills to prevent, detect, monitor and resolve any medicine related problems.

The concept of the seven-star pharmacist, introduced by WHO and adopted by FIP in the year 2000 in its policy statement on Good Pharmacy Practice, wants to see the pharmacist as a caregiver, communicator, decision-maker, teacher, life-long learner, leader and manager so that they can effectively decrease 5Ds i.e., Death, Disease, Disability, Discomfort and Dissatisfaction among patients. However, while seeking medical help, people think of a doctor or a nurse or a compounder, but seldom does a pharmacist come to mind. This needs to be changed by introducing professional Clinical Pharmacy services alongwith the novel concept of “Pharmaceutical Care”.

Pharmaceutical Care is a patient-centered, outcome-oriented pharmacy practice that requires the qualified pharmacist to work in concert with the patient and the patient’s other healthcare providers to promote health, to prevent disease and to make sure that the drug therapy regimens are safe and effective.

Professional Clinical Pharmacy services offered by trained personnel holding graduate and post-graduate degrees in Pharmaceutical Sciences can help a great deal in identifying potential and actual drug-related problems; addressing needs and resolving actual drug related problems; preventing potential drug-related problems and optimising patient therapy outcomes.

It is a practice in which the pharmacy practitioner assures that all of a patient’s drug therapy is used appropriately for each medical condition; the most effective drug therapy available is used; the safest drug therapy possible is used, and the patient is able and willing to take the medication as intended.

Patients in our part of the globe have not been able to avail such professional pharmaceutical care services so far as a result of which there is large scale dissatisfaction and disillusionment among them since they largely remain uninformed about various lab investigations conducted upon them and about the necessity for various drug therapies prescribed.

Though with the addition of a multitude of drugs to the physician’s armamentarium over the past hundred years, treatment of many hitherto untreatable diseases has become possible, every progress has a price to pay as new drugs have led to a new group of diseases known as the iatrogenic diseases.

Ironically these can also be called as the ‘diseases of medical progress’. “Primum non nocere” - first of all be sure that you do no harm - has long been a fundamental principle of the practice of medicine, devised by Hippocrates, who is considered as the father of modern medicine, way back in 460 BC.

One of the greatest hazards in the use of modern medicines is their inherent toxicity and the dangers of drugs appear to be greater than ever before as a result of the immense growth in their availability and consumption worldwide. Whilst most consumers derive far more benefits than harm, a large proportion of patients experiences adverse drug reactions too from the use of medicines even at recommended doses and frequencies.

For some patients, such undesirable effects are sufficiently severe to require hospitalization whereas a few of them even die. In view of unwanted effects of drugs, an American physician, poet, and polymath Oliver Wendell Homes has said that “If the whole “materia medica” (classical compendium of medicinally useful substances) would be sunk to the bottom of the sea, it would be all the better for mankind, and all the worse for the fishes”.

Ancient Indian healer known for his pioneering contributions to Ayurveda besides compilation of the medical treatise entitled ‘Charaka Samhita’ has also stated that “even a strong poison can become an excellent medicine if used properly. On the other hand, even the most useful drug can act like a poison if handled carelessly”.

Therefore, reducing the pill burden of patients and minimalizing their use of medicines is not just an option but a necessity since increasing pill burden particularly upon elderly patients is not only decreasing their adherence to their prescriptions but also telling adversely upon their trust and confidence in medicines.

This year’s World Pharmacist Day celebration is coinciding with National Pharmacovigilance Week celebration too from September 17 to 23. Let us pledge to do our bit to make medicines safer, maximize their benefits and minimise their risks.

On World Pharmacists Day we need to dwell extensively upon the emerging areas in which pharmacists can deliver their services as drug safety associates, drug analytics, patient counselling and community pharmacy service providers. We need to explore new possibilities in significant new areas and challenges evolving for the pharmacists as a result of the fast-changing global scenario.

We need to look for new opportunities for our budding pharmacists in key areas like Pharmacovigilance, Pharmaco-economics, Pharmaco-epidemiology, Personalised Medicine, Precision Medicine, Translational, Regenerative Medicine, Nanomedicine etc and we need to understand the role of artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analytics in new drug development.

New competencies, capabilities and skills need to be acquired by the pharmacists in order to face the challenges of the contemporary world.

Trust forms the basis of any credible and lasting relationship and to earn trust we need to produce well qualified and trained pharmacists who are competent, capable, proficient, knowledgeable, skilled and confident while dispensing their duties.

This year’s theme of “Pharmacy: united in action for a healthier world” signifies the need for unity, integrity, coordination and collaboration among pharmacy professionals working as pharmacy practitioners in hospitals, drug regulators, drug analysts, industrial pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, pharmacy educators, scientists and researchers for the improvement of healthcare around the world.

(Author teaches at the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Kashmir)

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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