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Published on 3 October 2012

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Pharmacists play key role in saving billions

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A report released today by the IMS Institute for Health Informatics and commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Health revealed that 500 billion US dollars can be saved each year in global healthcare spending if medicines were prescribed and used more responsibly. In a list of action points to remedy the situation, the IMS institute lists increasing the role and scope of practice of the pharmacist as the top recommendation. Such findings reinforce evidence that pharmacists are ideally positioned to improve responsible medicines use.
FIP, the global organisation of pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists, has already implemented measures to realise this untapped potential of pharmacists.  Today FIP is organising high-level Stakeholder Roundtables today that will feed into tomorrow’s ‘Ministers Summit on The Added Value of Responsible Medicines Use – Setting policies for better and cost effective healthcare’.
Pharmacists – the most accessible healthcare provider
Pharmacists are frontline healthcare providers and those most accessible in the community. Their role is changing from a purely dispensing one to that of a more integrated health service provider who utilises knowledge and expertise in counselling and medication management. Even so, currently Pharmacists spend 55% to 57% of their time dispensing, slightly less than 20% providing consultation, and 8% in medicine therapy management (Gerald 2010).
For example, pharmacists have introduced many innovations in their practice for the benefit of patients, as highlighted in the report released by the IMS Institute. One such example is
sending refill reminders (by Short Messaging Service (SMS), telephone, or mail). Refill reminders have been executed by pharmacies at a chosen number of days before the patients’ dispensing date is due. A great deal of evidence has been provided for the effectiveness of this programme (Ascione et al. 1985; Rosalind et al. 2010).
Another example is in supplying tools and information that support adherence, such as aids or dose dispensing. Automated technologies are used in pharmacies to package multimedicines into a single bag with the exact types and number of medicines to be taken in the morning, midday and night (e.g. multicompartment aids). A pharmacy care program incorporating such blister packaging among elderly patients with coronary risk factors led to increased medication adherence and clinically meaningful reductions in blood pressure. Discontinuation of the programme was associated with decreased medication adherence (Lee et al. 2006).
Stakeholder Roundtables
To provide additional input to the Ministers Summit, FIP is holding a series of Stakeholder Roundtables that will gather influential health stakeholders (e.g. from industry, patient organisations, private sector and global health professions organisations) from around the world to address the challenges that are causing substantial avoidable healthcare spending. This is one of many activities from FIP demonstrating toward better, more efficient healthcare worldwide, especially through better utilisation of the current untapped potential of pharmacists and in collaboration with other healthcare providers.
The Roundtables will focus on effective and ready to implement solutions in the following areas: Adherence, Right Medicine Right Patient (through appropriateness of treatment and avoiding medication errors) and the Transformative Power of Shared Information Within Health Systems, together with Innovation.
The outcomes of the Roundtables will be presented during the Ministerial Summit tomorrow morning and will further encourage the Ministers of Health to adopt policies aiming at reinforcing the role of pharmacists in healthcare systems, as they have been described as one of the most effective solutions.


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