Adoption of FIP development goals to perk up pharmacy profession
PHARMACISTS have been gaining global recognition as a result of a paradigm shift towards patient-centred role with myriad propitious contributions.
However, poor recognition of pharmacists and underutilization of pharmacy services in Pakistan indicate that pharmacists are still flying under the radar.
Unfortunately, the efforts of DRAP, the Pharmacy Council of Pakistan and the Pakistan Pharmacists Association have not yet succeeded to draw the attention of the government towards the existence of pharmacists.
This can be borne out by the tacit denial of pharmacists in Pakistan Economic Surveys. Resultantly, the country has not opted for the establishment of advanced pharmacy services.
Broadly, a plethora of regulatory, academia and pharmacist-related factors is eroding the way of pharmacists to be accepted as “seven-star pharmacist” having well-versed expertise as a care-giver, decision-maker, communicator, manager, leader, life-long-learner and teacher/researcher.
This epistle is aimed at highlighting the adoption of developmental goals stipulated by the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) to change the professional value of pharmacists from the bleeding edge to the cutting edge.
In September 2020, the FIP launched 21 developmental goals (FIP DGs) to transform the pharmacy profession in alignment with wider global imperatives supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
These goals advocate advancement in pharmacy practice, sciences and education and address intertwined challenges which must be overcome for professional transformation.
I have broadly classified FIP-DGs into three sets of goals to ease the discussion.
The first set of “pharmacy education and training revamping goals” include, academic capacity (FP-DG 1), early career training strategy (FP-DG 2), quality assurance (FP-DG 3) and competency development (FP-DG 5).
In Pakistan, the pharmaceutical workforce is not competent enough to meet the educational and national health resource needs.
As a result, the ratio of pharmacists in healthcare settings is far below the target set by the World Health Organization.
Even though, in 2003, the Pakistani government released the National Drug Policy, with an aim of one pharmacist per fifty beds in the public sector hospitals, but except for a bit improvement, no worthwhile step has been taken so far.
Similarly, despite the law entailing mandatory presence of pharmacists in community pharmacies, their availability is mainly scarce due to training deficits, poor remuneration, etc.
Likewise, the situation is also not satisfactory across academia, community, industrial and regulatory sectors to drive advance education and training.
In order to achieve pharmacy education and training revamping goals, there is a need to increase the institutional academic capacity and collaboration with academic leaders, regulatory bodies, health sector and industry to align the scientific content of academic courses with contemporary professional practice.
The second set of “practice advancing goals” include advanced and specialist development (FP-DG 4), advancing integrated services (FP-DG 7), continuing professional development strategies (FP-DG 9), medicines expertise (FP-DG 14), people-centred care (FP-DG 15), communicable diseases (FP-DG 16), antimicrobial stewardship (FP-DG 17), access to medicines, devices & services (FP-DG 18), patient safety (FP-DG 19), and digital health (FP-DG 20).
Pakistan is in dire need of advanced pharmacy services targeted in foregoing goals to achieve SDGs.
However, in addition to financial constraints and lack of governmental support, poor service-led competencies owing to deficits in training and practice opportunities act as a barrier to the provision of these advanced pharmacy services.
In this regard, there is a need for establishment of regulatory requirements and development of practice infrastructures to support advanced practice, such as board certification, residency training, proof of attainment of competencies, etc.
Furthermore, these goals warrant establishment of mechanisms to offer additional mentoring, networking and international exposure.
Specifically, to transform community pharmacy practice, strict enforcement of legislation to ensure availability of pharmacists at community pharmacies and financial support for the proprietors seems mandatory.
The last set of goals include leadership development (FP-DG 6), working with others (FP-DG 8), equity and equality (FP-DG 10), impact and outcomes (FP-DG 11), pharmacy intelligence (FP-DG 12), and sustainability in pharmacy (FP-DG 21).
Pharmacists in Pakistan are neither entrusted as decision makers nor serving at higher administrative positions in the healthcare settings.
Likewise, they are not collaborating enough with other healthcare professionals due to perception of dubious competency as well as lack of self-confidence and ineffective communication skills.
Leadership and effective communication skills can be inculcated through professional autonomy, accountability, collaborative working activities and inter-professional education and training.
Additionally, headway in the pharmacy profession also requires promotion of equity and equality assured via pharmaceutical workforce development, continued education and training and career progression opportunities across all pharmacy cadres.
Besides, FP-DG 11 and 12 are closely interlinked and warrant generating data on impact of pharmacy services in terms of health outcomes and quality of life.
Such evidence based data shall contribute to the achievement of FP-DG 21.
In sum, given the close interlinking of each goal with nearly every other goal, the achievement of FP-DGs within an existing pharmaceutical regulatory framework appears a difficult task.
To transform the pharmacy profession in Pakistan, in-depth qualitative and quantitative studies involving practicing pharmacists seem imperative not only to prioritize these goals but also to justify regulatory and monetary support.
In addition, collaborative efforts by pharmacists, the Pharmacy Council of Pakistan, the Pakistan Pharmacists Association and the DRAP will be required to initiate success pathways – starting from planning activities to ending at effectuating pharmacy-related policy amendments and developments.
Also, support of FIP and other related organizations in terms of expertise and finance should be sought to project required transformation of the pharmacy profession.
The healthcare regulators in Pakistan are also suggested to acknowledge pharmacists and the services they render.
After all, the whole world is leveraging pharmacy services to strengthen their healthcare system and Pakistan is committed to aligning its healthcare system to the international standards and trends.
—The writer is Chairman, Department of Pharmacy Practice and Director, Office of Research Innovation and Commercialization, Islamia University of Bahawalpur.