April 7, 2020
Across the world, countries battling the coronavirus are depending on their community pharmacies to provide healthcare and medicines to their population. Patients are being encouraged to use their pharmacies for advice, and governments are depending on pharmacies to manage limited supplies of medicines. Pharmacies work hard to ensure all their patients have the medicines they need, limiting stockpiling. Several initiatives to help patients have been agreed in WPC member countries. In Australia a government funded home delivery service for patients who cannot get to their pharmacy has been agreed and implemented; a similar service is under discussion in England. In Ireland community pharmacists have been given permission to use their professional judgement in supply of a medicine outside of a prescription.In South Korea, which has been very successful at limiting the spread of Covid-19, the government has implemented a policy of distributing a large proportion of face masks through community pharmacies. The percentage of all face masks supplied through pharmacies has risen from 50% to 70%.World Pharmacy Council members have shared advice and experience on Protective Personal Equipment and measures to limit risk of spread of Covid-19, such as Perspex screens, as well as signage and other messages to support community pharmacies in continuing to deliver critical frontline services, as people with possible symptoms have been discouraged from visiting doctors.The use of community pharmacies by both health and ill people puts the pharmacy team at risk. In Spain, where the impact of the pandemic is particularly severe, 5 pharmacists have tragically died, and 50 pharmacies have been forced to close.The role of pharmacies in the frontline has been recognised in many countries, including Portugal, where the senior Health Minister praised pharmacies, saying “there are many frontlines, sometimes less obvious or less noticeable, such as the pharmacies, that I would like to hail emphatically, though the President of the Portuguese Pharmaceutical Chamber, Prof. Ana Paula Martins, for their restless work”.The WPC is monitoring the development of policy and guidance by the OECD to ensure that it supports and promotes the valuable services provided by pharmacies, whilst protecting the public against unscrupulous and fraudulent exploitation of the pandemic.
Covid-19:community pharmacies on the front line
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