A new study by pharmaceutical scientists in Nigeria has indicated that a review of the pharmacy curriculum was necessary to better prepare the nation’s pharmacists to fight health emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic.
The study, titled Pharmacists’ perception of their roles and involvement in coronavirus disease 2019, made available to PUNCH HealthWise, was published in the Journal of Basic and Social Research – the official journal of the Department of Clinical Pharmacy and Biopharmacy, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Lagos.
The study stressed the need for the government to take steps to update the pharmacy curriculum to improve the capacity of pharmacists in dealing with health emergencies.
According to the study, pharmacists are key primary care providers and are usually frontline health workers during health emergencies, adding that they should be well equipped to make effective contribution and intervention in dire situations.
“It is recommended that relevant agencies of government and the faculties of pharmacy should swing into action by organising
update lectures and expanding the undergraduate and or postgraduate curriculums to accommodate this aspect,” it says.
The study identified seven areas where pharmacists can effectively contribute to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and other health emergencies.
The areas, it says are: “Education of public on reducing the spread of communicable diseases/infections, ensuring uninterrupted supply of medications, counselling patients on how to use and take medications, medication identification and safety assessment, triaging low-acuity patients and coordinating logistics of medications and medical supplies were prioritised roles of pharmacists for disaster prevention, preparedness, response and Recovery”.
To improve pharmacists’ involvement in pandemic situations, the study identified some measures that are fundamental to reducing the health risks posed by health pandemics such as in counselling and information provision.
According to the study, other measures are ensuring “timely and effective responses from the healthcare system such as in the continuity of pharmacy services and supply of essential medicines and protective gear; immediate actions in response to the pandemic such as setting up of referral pathways and dealing with supply shortages of needed drugs and consumables, and measures to return to ‘normal’ activities post-pandemic such as prioritizing care of vulnerable groups and re-establishing a normal working period”.
The study reveals that the greatest impact of COVID-19 on pharmacists’ practice was a high turnout of clients seeking to purchase protective gear including hand sanitizers and face masks, the increased cost of providing protective gear for staff and patients and being unable to come to the pharmacy because of the lockdown.
The study stated that pharmacies in the country responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by enhancing medication therapy management services to patients with chronic diseases, noting that the research was able to capture pharmacists’ perceptions of their roles within the framework of the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic because it was conducted in the early periods of the outbreak.
Speaking with our correspondent, Associate Professor of Clinical Pharmacy, Arinola Joda, noted that the study has further confirmed that pharmacists played crucial roles as primary care providers.
Joda, who is the acting head of department, Clinical Pharmacy & Biopharmacy, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Lagos, and one of the lead authors of the study noted that pharmacists should be recognized as primary healthcare providers.
She stressed that if the National Health Act appropriately recognised pharmacists as primary healthcare providers, it would not be difficult for them to get relevant training they need especially during a health emergency.
“So what we are seeing is that pharmacists have to fight to be allowed to do what they can do.
“Also, at the curriculum level, if they are recognized as primary healthcare providers, the curriculum can be easily automatically rejigged to reflect this status.
“At the level of the pharmacy faculty, and the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria, there are some aspects of such training, but they are fragmented. So the PCN can and is working with the faculty to improve this.
“Pharmacists inclusion and recognition as a primary healthcare provider is a global policy and Nigerian pharmacists are already rendering this service and providing primary care even though they are not recognized nor remunerated for it. So what I am saying is that they should be appropriately recognised for this role they are playing,” Dr. Joda said.
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