Dr Catherine Duggan, CEO, International Pharmaceutical Federation

Pharmacies around the world have served as a lifeline to their local communities amid the Covid-19 pandemic, said Dr Catherine Duggan, the chief executive officer at International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP).

“Community pharmacists have been a shining beacon on our high streets,” she said, in her keynote speech at the second session of the sixth annual Pharmacy Business Conference held online on Thursday, September 23.

She added: “You didn’t even think about that when you were stepping up into that space, you just thought it was right, what was right for the public that you serve.”

Innovations can be small and still be great, but pharmacies have proven this during the pandemic by demonstrating their ability to innovate healthcare solutions, Dr Duggan said, praising the sector.

“Not only did they find their way to safe supply chain to their existing medicines, but also for a source of advice in a changing world.”

She noted that pharmacists, as the most accessible and most trusted health care professionals, were quick to adapt to the changing situations during the pandemic — ranging from Covid-related guidance, testing regime to the actual finding of the vaccine.

Duggan said: “Every single pharmacist we have spoken to and we have showcased, has done an innovation in their practice. Probably some are very tiny, but have proven to be huge.”

She added: “Pharmacists have invested in their businesses to keep them afloat while they were ensuring that patients in the public were able to access appropriate medicine.”

Quoting an FIP survey conducted in 2016, she said there were only 16 countries where pharmacists were vaccinators, but the count increased to 36 in 2020 and now it has surpassed 50.

She added: “Covid has enabled many of our (member) nations to free up regulations and legislation to allow pharmacists to practice towards the top of the scope of their practice.”

She said the crisis has enabled pharmacies to innovate new healthcare practices through meaningful collaborations.

“The pandemic has enabled pharmacists to demonstrate their worth in their communities.”

She noted that FIP uses the UK example, where pharmacists also work as vaccinators, as a template for some member nations, which still remain reluctant to expand the role of pharmacists.

“I wanted to share with you some of the roles that pharmacists can valuably contribute as educators, as advocator for the vaccine, as facilitator for vaccination and testing in Covid.

Acknowledging the innovation taken place in pharmacies during the pandemic, she said: “I hope that models of appreciation (for innovative work) will soon be in place so that all of you (pharmacists) can continue this great work.”

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