âPharmacy: Always Trustworthy for Your Healthâ is the theme for World Pharmacists Day on September 25th. Trust is a vital part of the health ecosystem. Healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, are considered one of the most trusted professions and are uniquely positioned to provide support and advice to the public compared to other healthcare professionals and therefore better placed to facilitate consumer awareness. Patients trust their doctors, nurses, pharmacists, brands and healthcare providers and hope they will work in their best interests for optimal health outcomes.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the dedication and tireless efforts of healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, are commendable. At the heart of drug distribution, as close as possible to patients, directly or indirectly, they acted as an extension of the health system. However, the growing incidents of substandard, spurious, falsely labeled, falsified and counterfeit (SSFFC) medical products surfacing across the country have shaken consumer confidence and brought important aspects such as âPatient Safetyâ under. the scanner and rightly so.
Trust is a fundamental characteristic of healthcare and in the current scenario it has become more important. With the increase in counterfeit activity, the role of healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, becomes more vital in preventing medical products (SSFFC) from reaching patients. It is high time and all stakeholders must come together.
Health authorities in various countries recognize the value of community pharmacists in the health system because of their availability and accessibility to the public. Globally, various pharmacy associations such as the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP), Commonwealth Pharmacists Association (CPA) are working with national drug regulatory authorities in their countries to fight falsified medicines.
In India, the All India Organization of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD) represents more than 8.5 lakh of chemists. Apart from this, over 8000+ Pradhan Mantri Janaushadhi Kendras (PMJYK) are currently operational in India. Apollo, which has the largest network of branded pharmacies, has over 3,000 outlets and more in key locations.
As policymakers and brands step up consumer awareness measures, all of these can play an important role in keeping the supply chain clean. They are the ones who handle drugs several times a day. A continuous immersive awareness and education program is crucial for them so that they can be alert to the presence of a counterfeit product and be informed of the protocol if they come across a fraudulent product.
Informing and recalling a few simple but crucial tips can make a huge difference. Many brands use authentication solutions on their packaging. Sometimes a careful and attentive look reveals authenticity. A glance at the informational message on the packaging can help identify a genuine product. Investing a few seconds to quickly verify a product’s authentication with a mobile or web app for products for which brands have used a physical and digital authentication solution can be life saving. For example, to ensure that the tamper-evident seal is intact, the presence of anti-counterfeiting features such as a security hologram or holographic blister sheets, color-changing ink, or the unique code printed on the blister pack or carton of the drug.
Pharmacists are among the few professionals who are familiar with and familiar with most drug packaging. They can be encouraged to inform consumers of the authentication elements on the packaging of medicines and to participate in the authentication process. It takes a little more of their time, but goes a long way and is very effective in greatly minimizing the risk of falsified drugs in the systems.
The active participation, ethical conduct and vigilance of pharmacists is one of the best bets for the world and India for better patient safety. Pharmacists with their services can guarantee the efficiency of the health system. Letâs make today the first day to build a better future.
Nakul Pasricha, President, ASPA
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