An FIP emergency taskforce has released guidelines on how pharmacists should deal with the coronavirus outbreak

The roles that pharmacists in community, hospital and clinical biology can play in preventing the spread of COVID-19 (2019-nCoV) and supporting the efficient management of infection by healthcare systems have been outlined in a document published recently by the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP). The document was developed by an emergency taskforce set up by FIP following the World Health Organisation’s declaration that the outbreak of 2019-nCoV constitutes a public health emergency of international concern. 

Preventive measures

“Since pharmacies are often the first point of contact with the health system, and given that cases have already been seen in a number of countries, it is important that the whole pharmacy workforce is well informed and prepared,” said taskforce chair Ms Jane Dawson, who is also Secretary of FIP’s Military and Emergency Pharmacy Section and Director of Health Policy for the New Zealand Defence Force. The document gives reliable information on 2019-nCoV and covers preventive measures (from how to wear a mask to effective disinfection), what equipment to stock, advice that pharmacists can give, and laboratory testing. 

The taskforce also comprised a virologist, as well as pharmacists from China. FIP’s member organisation the Chinese Pharmaceutical Association (CPA) had already been addressing 2019-nCoV, and had prepared guidance that includes recommendations for treatment of 2019-nCoV infection. “It is an honour for the CPA, and myself, to collaborate with FIP on an international pharmacy response to the 2019-nCoV outbreak, as well as to share the CPA’s document as part of the global prevention and control work,” said Prof Zhao Rongsheng of Peking University Third Hospital Pharmacy Department and Deputy Chairman of the CPA’s hospital pharmacy and evidence-based pharmacy committees. 

Expertise

The document, Coronavirus 2019-nCoV outbreak: Information and interim guidelines for pharmacists and the pharmacy workforce, is downloadable in the six official United Nations languages, along with other resources on the FIP website. “Although the CPA guidance is aligned with characteristics particular to the system of pharmacy in China, it contains valuable expertise that can be used by pharmacists around the world, and it complements FIP’s guidance for an international audience. The CPA has kindly agreed to share this document in English and Chinese through the FIP website,” Ms Dawson said. 

“As demonstrated by previous SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV outbreaks, coronavirus infections can be contained through the active engagement of decision-makers, healthcare professionals and the community. This guidance is a valuable resource to ensure preparedness of our workforce in combating this new coronavirus and perhaps future ones. It also highlights the huge benefit of international collaboration via FIP,” she added.

Regarding community pharmacy, the document states: “Community pharmacies in outbreak-affected and unaffected countries are often the first point of contact with the health system for those with health-related concerns or simply in need of information and reliable advice. Community pharmacists have the shared responsibility of:

Storing appropriate stocks of pharmaceutical products (medicines, masks, etc) to supply the demand.

Informing and educating the public.

Counselling.

Referring.

Promoting disease prevention.

Promoting infection control.

With regard to hospital pharmacies, the FIP states: “Hospital pharmacies in outbreak-affected and unaffected countries play an important role in:

Storing appropriate stocks of relevant medicines and other medical products and devices to supply the demand.

Collaborating with other healthcare professionals in providing patient care and support.

In-hospital prevention and infection control.

Informing and counselling.

Ensuring the responsible use of the pharmaceutical products supplied. For example, ensuring that healthcare professionals consistently wear their masks correctly.”