The Commonwealth Pharmacists Association’s global response to COVID-19

Victoria Rutter and Diane Ashiru-Oredope discuss what the Commonwealth Pharmacists’ Association has done in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

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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 has affected 213 countries around the world

The Commonwealth Pharmacists Association (CPA) is a registered charity that advances health, promotes wellbeing and improves education for the benefit of people of the Commonwealth — a group of people accounting for around a third of the world’s population.

The CPA’s vision is to empower pharmacists to improve health and wellbeing throughout the Commonwealth, with a main focus on supporting and optimising medicines use — particularly in lower- and middle-income countries. 

The charity was originally established by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) in 1970 and, although the CPA has become an independent charity, it retains a special relationship with the RPS and the Society provides ongoing support.

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged pharmacy teams around the globe, and the CPA has risen to the challenge of supporting the profession around the Commonwealth at this time.

As an international global health charity, it is critical that we respond to actual needs, rather than perceived ones, so our first course of action in response to COVID-19 was to survey pharmacy colleagues across member countries on how we could best support them at this challenging time. We received over 600 responses from more than 40 countries.

In response to the survey findings, the CPA took several actions.

First, it created a dedicated email address ( and a Telegram group to provide members with a support and discussion community. As part of our ‘2020 Challenge’ virtual tour of the Commonwealth, which commenced before the pandemic, we checked in with member organisations to understand how they are coping and how the CPA could further support them at this challenging time. You can follow our progress on Twitter, under the hashtag #CPA2020C.

The CPA is also producing dedicated COVID-19 webinars. The first, held on 7 May 2020, discussed the resources that are available to support the COVID-19 response throughout the Commonwealth. Future webinars will provide discussion forums and opportunities to share learning based on experience. These will be particularly important when testing, vaccination and treatment options are rolled out.

We put together a COVID-19 resources toolkit to signpost to materials directly relevant to the pharmacy workforce — including international guidance, publications, and tools and resources produced by other member organisations. The CPA has also produced a downloadable toolkit based on the infection prevention and control (IPC) activities that were developed as part of the Commonwealth Partnerships in Antimicrobial Stewardship (CwPAMS) programme.

Within the CwPAMS programme, a dedicated COVID-19 section has been added to the CwPAMS Microguide app. The app was originally developed to bring together resources to support IPC and antimicrobial stewardship at the point of care, independent of internet connection.

Finally, the CPA’s advocacy role has continued through the COVID-19 pandemic. The Commonwealth Civil Society Forum traditionally takes place on the eve of the Commonwealth Health Ministers’ Meeting (CHMM) in Geneva, Switzerland, each year. In 2020, the forum was held online on 6 May, with a theme of how digital health can help support the response to the pandemic. The CwPAMS app was showcased and the CPA highlighted how the pharmacy workforce is well placed to use digital technologies as part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic: particularly in supporting access to quality medicines and prescribing information. These points were reflected in the statement and recommendations that were subsequently put forward to health ministers.

The CPA has also been contributing to the advocacy papers ahead of the postponed biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), which was set to take place in Kigali, Rwanda, between 22 and 27 June 2020.

The theme for CHOGM 2020 is ‘Delivering a common future: connecting, innovating, transforming’. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought new and unprecedented health challenges — such as how to ensure ongoing, equitable access to pharmaceutical care while protecting the safety of our healthcare workforce. The CPA authored a commentary, which will be disseminated to policymakers, entitled ‘The role of the Commonwealth in achieving universal health coverage through pharmaceutical care amidst the COVID-19 pandemic’.

In addition, the CPA has secured funding from the Commonwealth to produce a training video on local production of hand sanitisers, using the World Health Organization formulation

Aside from its COVID-19 response, the CPA has several ongoing activities — including our annual PharmAid scheme, which redistributes materials such as the British National Formulary to lower- and middle-income countries, hosts joint conventions, and develops educational resources, campaigns and advocacy efforts. The charity regularly puts out calls for volunteers and consultants to support these initiatives.

We are also actively seeking more patrons: individuals from around the Commonwealth who can publicly support and endorse our work. These would join our four existing patrons, all of whom were appointed in the last 12 months. Find out more at

You can also follow us on Twitter @CW_Pharmacists

Diane Ashiru Oredope

Victoria Rutter

Diane Ashiru-Oredope, global antimicrobial resistance lead at the Commonwealth Pharmacists Association (CPA) and Victoria Rutter, executive director of the CPA 

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, June 2020, Vol 304, No 7938;304(7938):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2020.20207983

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