The digital era is radically changing how technology is used, and new technologies are set to have major impacts on how people live and work, according to the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP). How pharmacists and pharmacy organisations can rise to the challenge of these technologies and embrace them has been set out in a new Position Statement on emerging technologies and pharmacy practice released by the FIP.

The statement highlights technological advances, some considered disruptive, that are affecting the pharmacy profession, including: Successfully providing remote services during the Covid-19 pandemic; 24/7 online access to pharmacists; harvesting of patient health and online purchasing data by profit-seeking entities; the use of artificial intelligence; and the use of marketing tools to encourage patients to buy medical products.

The statement insists that, to protect patients, pharmacists must be involved in the development of digital health technologies. “Any new disruptive technology or business model must not dilute the inherent protections that are in place for consumers and civil society under the conventional pharmacy model. They must allow for the continued pharmacist-based professional stewardship of medicines,” it adds.

Dr Lars-Åke Söderlund, President, FIP Community Pharmacy Section, said: “Understanding the changing healthcare landscape and patients’ evolving needs and expectations will be crucial for the profession of pharmacy as we develop new services, incorporate new evidence-based digital tools, and advance our possibilities in the scope of patient-centered care.

“It is time to evaluate the services that pharmacists are providing through digital health tools that enhance pharmacy services by improving access for patients who choose to receive care digitally. After all, digital health in the end is about health — digitally enabled,” Dr Söderlund added.

The statement sets out examples of FIP’s activities, including the FIP Technology Forum, that will examine innovative concepts of blended care, ie, care that utilises digital advancements where possible and human actions when needed. It also expresses FIP’s commitment to support its member organisations, as well as policy-makers and regulators as they resource and enable the untapped potential of pharmacy through full-scope pharmacy care, said the Federation. 

Meanwhile, a handbook to support pharmacists in preventing, controlling, managing and treating vector-borne diseases was published recently by the FIP.

Some of these diseases, such as malaria and dengue, previously confined to tropical and subtropical areas, are now spreading to new regions due to climate change, increased global travel and migration, global trade, deforestation and unplanned urbanisation, and the FIP is encouraging pharmacists to take a more active role in their prevention and management. 

“Vector-borne diseases account for nearly one-fifth of all infectious diseases and cause over 700,000 deaths every year. In addition to their health burden, their economic impact is enormous, especially so because they disproportionately affect the world’s poorest countries, particularly in Africa, the Americas and South-East Asia,” said FIP President Mr Dominique Jordan.

The new publication, Vector-Borne Diseases: A Handbook for Pharmacists, produced in collaboration with the Pharmaceutical Forum of the Americas, provides an overview of vector-borne diseases and the actions that pharmacists can take. It covers: 

  • Education on prevention methods. 
  • Advice on the use of repellents.
  • Compounding of mosquito repellents.
  • Improving vaccination coverage.
  • Optimising adherence to treatments.
  • Reducing social stigma.

“Combating vector-borne diseases is fundamental for achieving many of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Most of these diseases are preventable and pharmacists are ideally placed to support communities and patients in protecting themselves. We hope this handbook will be of great value to pharmacists all around the world,” Mr Jordan said.