Alina Lourie, managing director of Pharmaceutical Press (PhP), will be stepping down from her role at the end of December 2018 after six-and-a-half years leading the publishing division of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS).
Lourie came to the RPS from a background in legal publishing: a sector that, she told The Pharmaceutical Journal, has much in common with pharmacy.
“In both sectors, the quality and accuracy of the information you publish is paramount,” she says.
Lourie describes her time at the Society as “a bit of a whirlwind”. She recalls that her role began with major changes to The Pharmaceutical Journal.
“We moved it from a mainly print journal, with a bit of digital, to a very dynamic digital product, and printing monthly rather than weekly — and moving from there to working on the quality.
“That was a major digital journey and has resulted, I think, in a membership benefit which is far better than it was.”
The redesign and digitalisation of the British National Formulary
(BNF) in 2015 was another huge project for Lourie’s team: “When you say ‘digital product’, everyone thinks you’re talking about software. But actually, it was all about changing the content so that it was amenable to be digitised,” she said.
“That was a very big and difficult project, and it was very much demanded by the NHS because of their digital agenda. It took longer than it should have done, but I’m really pleased with how, in the end, we got there.
“I think the fact that we’ve got this award-winning app now, which wouldn’t have happened without all that work, is a sign that we did get there in the end.”
The relaunch of the BNF was particularly memorable for Lourie because, she says, of the huge reaction to it — “some good, and some bad”.
“I remember that really well; realising how important what we were doing was,” she says. “There are a whole lot of people out there using it every day and it really impacts them. You start to feel the links between what we do, what the doctors do, and the patients. I felt that very powerfully.”
Lourie also oversaw the redevelopment of MedicinesComplete into an in-house digital platform. “We’re launching three new products in the next three weeks and certainly two of them wouldn’t have been possible without those changes to MedicinesComplete.
“It’s important for the Society to have these new products coming through because it keeps us dynamic, but it’s also important for our revenue generation and for meeting the needs of pharmacists and doctors.”
On a personal note, Lourie takes pride in the fact that her team has increased profits in publishing almost tenfold, which, in turn, supports other member benefits.
“It’s a very tangible result and I’m pleased to get there. It wouldn’t have happened without a lot of investment and a lot of support,” she says.
“I’m also proud of the team that were able to work together so well to deliver it.”
When asked what she’s learnt about pharmacy in the UK during her tenure, and her views on the sector after six years with the RPS, Lourie says that despite a certain amount of despondency, these are hopeful times.
“I think it’s potentially very exciting for pharmacists to be on the brink of being able to provide greater services and being more integral to the whole healthcare workflow … there’s a huge amount of benefit for everybody in that,” she says.
She adds that the public, in her view, does not always fully understand how much pharmacists can do for them.
“They do on an individual basis, sometimes, but there isn’t the knowledge and understanding that the profession warrants,” she says.
“That’s an interesting challenge for the Society, and it’s one they’re working on.”
Karen Baxter, former director of content strategy within PhP, has taken up the role of interim managing director.