World Pharmacists Day 2019: Safe and Effective Medicines for All
Tuesday, 24 September 2019
by Harry Amoaning Okyere, MPSGH
Since 2009, the 25th day of each September is commemorated as annual World Pharmacists day. This year, the celebration is themed “Safe and effective medicines for all” The timeliness and significance of this audacious theme cannot be overemphasized; it clearly aims to promote pharmacists’ indispensable role in ensuring that patients get the best out of their medicines and in reducing medication related errors and its associated potential or actual harm to patients.
The total number of different prescription medications and over-the-counter preparations available are in excess of 10,000. When you consider that many patients often use these medicines alongside many health supplements, herbal preparations, potions and lotions, medication related errors are inevitable. In our part of the world, this is compounded by deficit in the number of health professionals.
According to the World Health Organization, medication errors cause at least one death every day and injure about 1.3 million people annually in the United States of America alone. Even though official data are lacking, low- and middle-income countries like Ghana are estimated to have similar rates of medication related adverse events, with twice as much adverse impact. Globally, the cost associated with medication errors has been estimated at US $42 billion or almost 1% of total global health expenditure.
Consequently, a multi-disciplinary approach to avert the impact of this important public health threat is not only imperative but long overdue. As custodians of medicines, this places the responsibility on pharmacists within the healthcare system to be at the forefront of such multidisciplinary approach; a duty that we gladly embrace.
The systemic bottlenecks notwithstanding, pharmacists work to ensure that medications are prescribed, used and monitored appropriately. Pharmacists in all settings work to remove all barriers to medication access, educate patients and other healthcare professionals on safe and effective medicines use, evaluate medication appropriateness for individual patients, comprehensively review a patient’s full regimen for possible interactions and help patients take their medications as prescribed.
Pharmacists are also frequently involved in out-of-clinic management of chronic conditions including routine monitoring of blood pressure, blood sugar and blood cholesterol using rapid diagnostic tests. They also may give up-to-date clinical advice about the patient’s diet, exercise, or stress management, or about durable medical equipment and home health care supplies. Gradually, with the scope of pharmacy training changing in the country, the scope of practice is also expanding to embrace the provision of enhanced reproductive health services, and immunization services as well as coordinating care transitions in some settings.
Invariably, the pharmacist is at the centre of every effort to assure “Safe and effective medicines for all”
“Today, more than ever, pharmacists are charged with the responsibility to ensure that when a patient uses a medicine, it will not cause harm”, reiterated Dominique Jordan, the incumbent president of International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP).
On hindsight, pharmacists in Ghana and elsewhere may need to document and establish measurable parameters to evaluate our contribution to reducing medication related errors and any pharmacist-led intervention that assured safe and effective medication therapy.
The FIP encourages pharmacists to use this day to organize activities that promote and advocate for the role of the pharmacist in improving medicines use and reducing medication errors. In response, the Greater Accra Regional branch of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana (PSGH) on the 14th of September put “a therapeutic” smile on the faces of over 300 underprivileged children by making donations to the New Life Orphanage (Tema) and the Remar Orphanage and Foster Home (Frafraha). On Dr. Kwame Nkrumah Day celebration, several pharmacists “stormed” the various malls, schools, churches, mosques, lorry stations and many other places to educate the general public on rational and safe medicines use.
The official launch of the World Pharmacists day celebration will take place on the 25th of September at the Ministry of Health Conference Hall. The launch is expected to bring all stakeholders together to deliberate on the theme for the year. The entire celebration will be climaxed with another donation to the Nsawam Prisons on the 28th of September.
Ayekoo to all Pharmacists.