We need to embrace science more positively

Two items attracted my attention in a recent issue of The Pharmaceutical Journal. The first was the report on the development of advanced clinical academic training of pharmacists “which will support the advancement of a relatively small cohort of pharmacist each year… to the overall benefit of pharmacy as a profession” (2014;293:226), and the second was the views of Bill Scott, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for Scotland, who is reported as saying that pharmacy education should “move away from a requirement for chemistry” (2014;293:234).

I am concerned that just as the potential role of the pharmacist as an objective expert in the use and management of medicines is being promoted, senior figures in the profession are suggesting that scientific basis of medicines, their use and misuse are irrelevant to the training of pharmacists.

Brian Furman (2014;293:276) has pointed out that the training of students of pharmacy has undergone significant evolution over the past 10–20 years and the same is true of the training of medical students. In both disciplines, the integration of science and scientific progress with clinical training is now well established.

I have worked with basic and applied scientists, physicians, geneticists, surgeons and pathologists in a clinical school dedicated to the diagnosis, management and treatment of inherited diseases of muscle and peripheral nerve for more than 40 years. During that time, I have been directly involved in the training and examining of over 100 postgraduates, including large numbers of young doctors who have since moved on to clinical consultant positions both here and overseas and whose practice continues to be informed by their experience and training in “hard” science.

If leaders of the profession embrace the view that science is irrelevant to the broad mass of pharmacists, do we envisage a future where pharmacists have no understanding of the relationships between the basic science of the uptake, distribution, metabolism and excretion of the medicines we take? Or of the factors that limit or promote their effectiveness? What will they know of the relationships between molecular genetics and personalised medicines? Will they really be recognised as experts by either doctors or patients?

If pharmacists are really going to embrace a new future of direct involvement in disease management, in collaboration with other medical and paramedical professionals, they need to embrace even more positively the science that underpins the development, introduction and use of new therapies and not relegate it to the sidelines.

John Harris

Emeritus professor of experimental neurology

Newcastle University

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, 4 October 2014, Vol 293, No 7830;293(7830):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2014.20066632

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