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The Pharmacist: An Indispensible Member of Healthcare Team

The Pharmacist is a professional who is an embodiment of knowledge in drugs and drug related issues. “Drugs are poisons” is what they say, but the pharmacists can turn them to be a remedy for different kinds of ailments. The role of pharmacists in healthcare is important because without drugs, there is no healthcare. Drugs are one of the major weapons used in global and public health to help in mitigation, cure, treatment and prevention of diseases.

The role of pharmacists in achieving Sustainable Development Goal – Universal health coverage cannot be overemphasised. This multi-faceted professional, the pharmacist, is the backbone of healthcare in different settings. Without him, the healthcare team is incomplete. The American Pharmacists Association (APhA) described pharmacy as: “the profession responsible for the appropriate use of medications, devices, and services to achieve optimal therapeutic outcomes”. They are the most accessible members of the healthcare team.

Today, pharmacists have expanded opportunities to provide population-based care in areas critical to the mission of public health, including immunisation programmes, emergency preparedness and response, fighting depression and suicide in the society, contraceptives services, humanitarian pharmacy and prevention and control of infectious diseases, chronic disease, and injuries. Also, the pharmacists educate and advise other members of health care team on medication decision therapy.

The pharmacist is an expert in Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Medicinal Chemistry, Physiology, Anatomy, Biochemistry, Biostatistics, Pharmaceutical Microbiology, Pharmacognosy and Herbal Medicine, Pharmacology, Clinical Pharmacy among others. He/she is adequately prepared, available and committed to public service to ensure good health and wellness of their patients. There are many possible areas of specialisation for pharmacists.

These include: Academic pharmacist, Clinical pharmacy specialist, Community pharmacist, Compounding pharmacist, Consultant pharmacist, Drug information pharmacist, Home health pharmacist, Hospital pharmacist, Industrial pharmacist, Informatics pharmacist, Managed care pharmacist, Military pharmacist, and Nuclear pharmacist. Others include – Oncology pharmacist, Palliative care pharmacist, Pharmacist prescriber, Regulatory-affairs pharmacist, Veterinary pharmacist, Pharmacist clinical pathologist, Pharmacist Clinical toxicologist, Paediatric pharmacist, Neonatal pharmacist, etc.

As the global community marks World Pharmacists Day (25th September), members of International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) remind us once again of the impacts and added value of the Pharmacy profession, and its role in improving health to authorities, other professions and the media, as well as to the general public. Pharmacists are experts in medicines and are responsible for the development of new drugs and delivery system to ensure appropriate treatment and management of diseases.

The theme of this year’s celebrations, ‘From research to health care: Your pharmacist is at your service’ is aimed at reflecting the numerous contributions the pharmacy profession makes to healthcare. According to the FIP president, Dr. Carmen Pena, “From research and development of medicines, to educating future pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists and providing direct care, are all the things done by pharmacists in service of the patients and communities.”

Pharmacy research encompasses examining how and why people access pharmacy services, how much care costs, and what happens to the patient as a result of this care. In simple terms, it is an evidence-based strategy used in examining and ascertaining drug accessibility, drug affordability, drug efficacy, therapeutic drug monitoring and pharmacovigilance, and drug availability among other uses which are integral part of healthcare system. Areas of pharmacy research may also include medicines policy and governance, quality assurance, safety and standards for vaccines and biological as well as rational use of medicines.

The translations of the results from research are used as evidence in pharmacotherapy to successfully treat the patients without complications. The role of pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists in drug discovery process cannot be overemphasised ranging from compound collections, synthesis and isolation to clinical trials and post-marketing surveillances. Pharmacy practice research is aimed at provision of evidence to support the clinical and effective use of medicines while ensuring that the risks of adverse drug reactions are minimised.

Pharmacists strive to improve the quality of their existing services and develop new ones that benefit their patients, which are the heart of pharmacy by translating their researches into healthcare system to further increase therapeutic outcome. Collecting and sharing evidences are one of the roles of pharmacists in the interest of their patients, their practice and their profession.  They are involved in research and innovation by discovering and developing new drugs and devices, manufacturing of quality medicines by using the latest technologies so as to lower the cost of medicines, distribution and dispensing of medicines by ensuring that the right dose and at the right time are dispensed to the patients.

They also provide primary and community healthcare by facilitating public health campaigns in local communities, support and educate pharmacy postgraduates, graduates and undergraduates on the current trends in pharmaceutical sciences in order to update them. Pharmacists in academia build the capacity of pharmacy students to be able to deliver public health services, carry out researches that would increase the general knowledge on public health pharmacy, and even play advisory role in formulation of policies for pharmacy practice. These are the few among many other activities carried out by the pharmacists in different areas of practice.

Pharmacy as a profession has progressed over the years from being a product oriented profession to a patient-oriented one. What initially started as a practice known for extemporaneous compounding of medicaments and dispensing, has evolved to a more patient-centered and outcome oriented practice. The pharmacist is required to work in concert with the physician and other healthcare providers to promote health, prevent diseases, assess, monitor, initiate and modify medication. All these are to ensure that drug therapy regimens are safe and effective. Pharmacists also provide expertise about the drug composition including the properties of the drug, their indications and how they are manufactured.

Are you in need of any information about drugs? Your pharmacist is always at your service.

*Adebisi Yusuff Adebayo is the Public Relations Officer ‘16/17, PANS, University of Ibadan Chapter, and Member, African Pharmaceutical Symposium 2018 Publicity Team

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