Many low- and middle-income countries still lack the pharmacy workforce needed to provide universal health coverage, Victoria Rutter, executive director of the Commonwealth Pharmacists Association, said at a meeting held in tandem with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London in April 2018.
Rutter was speaking at a panel discussion on ‘Universal Health Coverage: Holding Countries to Account’, during the Commonwealth People’s Forum, which was held in London on 16–18 April 2018.
Leading the panel’s session on global health workforce needs, Rutter told delegates that “the global rise of non-communicable diseases has led to patients presenting with increasingly complex health needs, which in turn require the effective management of increasingly complex medication regimens”.
She added: “Upskilling pharmacists from traditional supply roles to extend their practice to focus on medicines optimisation in patient-facing settings has been demonstrated to lead to better treatment outcomes.”
Rutter also said that rather than focusing solely on improved access to medicines, there is a need to emphasise access to “quality medicines” and effective systems of medicines optimisation — “providing the right medicines, combinations and dosing”.
“Without this, we risk the establishment of very inefficient and ineffective systems,” she added.
The increasing prevalence of falsified or substandard medicines — which in some regions can reach 50% of the supply chain — adds urgency to the need for investment in the global pharmaceutical workforce. Centralised procurement processes led by pharmacists offer efficiency savings, Rutter said, but also “tighter monitoring and regulation that can reduce the incidence of substandard and falsified medicines entering the supply chain”.
“Digital initiatives for better surveillance through pharmacy, working with the recently launched Commonwealth Centre for Digital Health, will also have the potential to add great value,” she added.
The health workforce session was delivered in collaboration with the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP)’s educational division.
Carmen PenÌƒa, president of the FIP, has previously said that investment in the global pharmaceutical workforce is crucial to achieving universal health coverage and that the FIP is working to raise the visibility of pharmacists, pharmaceutical scientists and educators in global health policies.
Recommendations arising from the Commonwealth People’s Forum will be presented to the Commonwealth Heads of Government.