Open access article
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has made this article free to access in order to help healthcare professionals stay informed about an issue of national importance.
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The COVID-19 pandemic shows how vulnerable we remain to calamities and how such crises may reshape society in lasting ways. But moments of crisis also present opportunites to improve our facilities and healthcare infrastructure, and to stimulate us to think about how we can be better prepared in future emergencies.
Clearly, a holistic approach is necessary to prepare society in the longer term; however, it is obvious that community pharmacy has played a vital role, and it will continue to do so.
Community pharmacists already reduce the burden on other areas of the health service by referring eligible patients; providing advice and treatment, where appropriate; and improving patient adherence. The profession’s role is evolving, and the services provided by community pharmacies must continue to develop too.
The current situation has extended the role of community pharmacists around the world to include addressing disease outbreaks and pandemics. Pharmacists’ role and responsibilities in preventing the spread of the disease, and their contribution to its efficient management, has been outlined in the recently updated guideline by the International Pharmaceutical Federation
This role includes ensuring adequate storage and supply of appropriate stocks of relevant medicines, and other medical products and devices to supply the demand; providing information to the public about preventative measures and behavioural precautions; and risk assessment by providing early detection and referral of individuals suspected to be at a higher risk of infection
Published studies showed that older age, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and cancer were associated with an increased risk of death for patients with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19
A meta-analysis of eight studies assessed the prevalence of comorbidities in the patients infected with COVID-19; the studies indicated underlying disease, including hypertension, respiratory system disease and cardiovascular, to be a risk factor for patients with severe COVID-19, compared with patients with non-severe COVID-19
In the UK, community pharmacies are already involved in managing these risk factors by providing a range of public health interventions, such as identifying people with undiagnosed high blood pressure by testing, providing body mass index checks and weight management services, counselling for at-risk populations, smoking cessation and vaccination.
Previous reports by the then Deparment of Health and Public Health England have already outlined a vision for pharmacy to become a community hub for public health services, but the present COVID-19 pandemic clearly embraces the pivotal role of pharmacists in promoting healthier lifestyles and disease prevention
Considering the risk factors for severe COVID-19 symptoms, outlined above — and considering the high levels of unhealthy behaviours, smoking and lifestyle-related health conditions (for example, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease) in the UK — pharmacy’s role in preventing disease and proactively mitigating the impact of similar pandemics in the future has never been more important.
Mamoon Aldeyab, Department of Pharmacy, School of Applied Sciences, University of Huddersfield, West Yorkshire;
Sayer Al-Azzam, Faculty of Pharmacy, Jordan University of Science and Technology, Jordan
 International Pharmaceutical Federation. 2020. Available at: https://www.fip.org/files/content/priority-areas/coronavirus/COVID-19-Guidelines-for-pharmacists-and-the-pharmacy-workforce.pdf (accessed April 2020)
 HM Government & Department of Health. 2008. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/228858/7341.pdf (accessed April 2020)
 Public Health England. 2017. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/643520/Pharmacy_a_way_forward_for_public_health.pdf (accessed April 2020)