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E-labelling in pharmacy: Pharmacists say ‘responsible regulation key to successful transition’

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Pharmacists can serve as a bridge between regulators and patients during the transition to e-labelling

A new report on e-labelling from the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) has highlighted the opportunities and challenges of e-labelling in pharmacy.

The report, containing views from pharmacists who participated in an insight board discussion at the FIP’s annual congress in September 2023, underscored the importance of regulation and collaboration for a successful transition to electronic patient information leaflets (PILs).

Considered regulation will be key in addressing digital exclusion, alongside collaborative efforts among pharmaceutical companies, healthcare providers, e-labelling developers and regulators to ensure that patients can access the information they need in formats they can use – the report said.

The report also cited a previous study published by Pharmacy Practice which found that only 37 per cent of respondents read the patient information leaflets included in the medication package.

Highlighting the benefits of digital transformation in pharmacy, the report said that “e-labelling can play a significant role in providing equitable, accessible and patient-centred care.”

Through digital labelling, information can be personalised to suit individual needs and preferences, as well as it can be made available in preferred languages and format, such as text, audio, or video.

Nevertheless, the report underscored that the availability of various formats might impede patient access to information. Hence, it suggested that having an approved format to simplify and enhance the process could be beneficial in ensuring information access.

Lars-Åke Söderlund, FIP vice president and co-chair of FIP’s technology advisory group, highlighted the important role pharmacists can play in educating patients and providing guidance on e-labels, as well as empowering patients and collaborating with other stakeholders.

E-labelling can offer a host of benefits to patients, but responsible regulation will be key in ensuring a patient-centred approach that is consistent across the board and doesn’t leave communities behind.

“As pharmacists, we can play a key role in the transition towards a new labelling system by serving as a bridge between regulators and patients,” he said.

Although e-labelling has been explored in some countries, it remains at an early stage of development in many regions worldwide.

Therefore, it’s crucial to discuss “what the transition could look like and how this could impact patients and pharmacy professionals,” Söderlund said.

Experts present at the insight board discussion, supported through unrestricted funds from Sanofi Consumer Healthcare, also recommended that all e-labelling platforms should comply with the legal and regulatory frameworks governing healthcare and pharmaceuticals in each market.

However, they acknowledged that it is a challenge due to the geographical differences.

Josephine Fubara, the chief science officer at Sanofi Consumer Healthcare, noted that with the growing emphasis on empowering people to manage their health and make informed decisions, the discussion around e-labelling has gained unprecedented relevance.

According to Fubara, some potential barriers need addressing when considering the transition to e-labelling, including supporting those with limited access to the internet, and regulatory challenges.

“That is why it’s so important to bring experts from all over the world together to share their ideas and to discuss the best ways to overcome these,” he said.

“E-labelling aims to make healthcare as simple as it should be, and, with the correct prerequisites in place, I believe it can be a positive move towards bridging inequitable access to medicines information, increasing medication adherence and enabling successful self-care,” Fubara added.

The report will be discussed at a webinar scheduled to be held on Thursday, 18 April, where a global range of experts will cover these points in more detail.

 

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