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The value of involving pharmacists in the prevention, early detection and management of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is highlighted in a report released today by the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP). The report “Beating non-communicable diseases in the community: The contribution of pharmacists” presents initiatives from 15 countries (Australia, China, Finland, Germany, India, Lebanon, Nigeria, Portugal, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland and the USA) that should encourage pharmacists around the world to play a more active part in fighting NCDs. The report also reviewed published evidence of the impact of pharmacists in the fight against NCDs.
The four major NCDs ― cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, asthma and cancer ― are a leading cause of morbidity and mortality the world over. FIP’s Working Group on Non-communicable Diseases, which produced the report based on a survey of FIP member organisations, concluded that pharmacists’ regular interactions with patients can be harnessed to increase prevention of NCDs, responsible use of medicines, and adherence to medication, and thereby achieve better health outcomes.
Community pharmacists, as one of the most accessible sources of primary health care, are ideally placed to minimise the impact of NCDs on individual patients and communities, the report points out. The case studies show that they are able to provide early screening, point-of-care testing and specialised counselling, as well as long-term disease management. However, the authors believe that pharmacists could play an even bigger role in NCDs and need to further align their work with that of other healthcare professionals.
“NCD management is demanding new answers and requiring innovative and creative solutions, many of which could be provided by pharmacists,” says Ms Isabel Jacinto, chair of the working group. However, she adds that in some countries, lack of access to pharmacists due to workforce shortages is jeopardising the health of patients with NCDs, and the report calls on governments to take action to increase the supply of well-qualified pharmacists.
The working group also calls for pharmacists’ contribution to NCD prevention and management to be recognised and adequately remunerated by public and private third-party payers. “This report sets out the global evidence to advocate, nationally and internationally, for an expanded role for pharmacists in NCD management. It also contains recommended actions for national and local associations of pharmacists,” Ms Jacinto says.
It is expected that the report will lead to a new FIP policy statement on NCDs. The report also provides a valuable evidence base for FIP’s work with other professions, the World Health Organization and the United Nations to develop shared strategies to manage NCDs.