The pharmaceutical profession must continue to transform to adapt to changes in population, technology science and health management, said outgoing president of the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) Michel Buchmann at the opening ceremony of the 74th FIP Congress on 31 August 2014 in Bangkok.
There have been great technological advances made in health, but Buchmann believes the biggest changes have occurred in information and communication. The internet has made a significant impact through the immediate access to, and proliferation of, information, whether these are evidence based or personal opinions about science, health and medicines.
This has resulted in the rapid dissemination of misinformation and increased trafficking of falsified medicines. He also expressed concern about the increased demand from patients, who have become impatient and less confident in the healthcare system.
Moreover, the vast and growing knowledge of science has led to a gradual growing fragmentation of many different disciplines. Buchmann said these silos of information and specialisation often lead to many specialists working separately, even though they are supposed to collaborate to respond to the needs of patients.
Managing health carries heavy political implications and this has changed the relationship between stakeholders in the health sector, including the relationships between patients and professionals, Buchmann said. He raised the issue of the rising cost of healthcare, which he believes is a major political and economic concern in most countries. New drugs require costly research to ensure innovation, safety and efficacy, leading to more expensive medicines. Buchmann also cited the huge waste created with regard to patients not adhering to medication.
A common political viewpoint around the world could be “do better and cheaper”, Buchmann suggested. Often, the political changes and proposals only focus on the immediate impact to the economy, changing the price of medicines and costs of hospital visits, but neglecting other important factors such as pharmaceutical waste and non-adherence, he said.
All these challenges, Buchmann said, require clinical and economic adaptation, and the profession must adapt in order to meet the changing needs of patients. He emphasised that multidisciplinary teams ensure the rational, efficient and co-ordinated use of all competencies available. For example, he suggested that monitoring of chronically ill patients can be undertaken by pharmacists, who would have a major role in the management of medicines adherence.
Interaction between health professionals means a change in the structure and function of all educational institutions. Therefore, not only does the profession need to adapt to change, but also the institutions that train the pharmacists of tomorrow.
Buchmann suggested there is a need to promote exchange between scientists and practitioners. The scientist informs the practitioner about the research, the practitioner will then translate the knowledge to support patients and also explain the reality and interactions to the scientists.
Communities and patients need every health professional to assist and complement one another, and Buchmann said the evidence is growing of the benefits of collaboration, which was initially documented by FIP in 2009.