A new handbook, published recently by the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) in collaboration with The Clean Breathing Institute, aims to strengthen pharmacists’ essential roles in supporting the appropriate management of common upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs). These roles are varied and have been defined in the handbook as: Supporting self-care (ie, advice on the use of non-prescription medicines); preventing infection and supporting respiratory wellbeing (ie, through use of facemasks, nasal hygiene and good ventilation of indoor spaces); assessing symptoms; referring patients when needed; patient education and counselling (ie, on antimicrobial resistance and how to administer nasal formulations); providing care via minor ailment schemes; and giving evidence- based advice on complementary medicines. “URTIs are frequent reasons for which patients seek healthcare advice, with an estimated 17.2 billion cases in 2019.
As demands for healthcare increase, we need a new approach that empowers people to manage their own health and wellbeing, helping to relieve pressure on overburdened healthcare systems. This new resource from FIP supports pharmacists in providing primary healthcare for URTIs, and in their responsibility to support informed self-care,” said Mr Paul Sinclair, chair, FIP Board of Pharmaceutical Practice. The handbook contains guidance on managing the common cold, influenza and sinusitis. It also highlights evidence that exposure to air pollutants interferes with processes essential to the immune response, increasing susceptibility to developing respiratory infections. “Air pollution represents important challenges for health and primary healthcare, and in recent years FIP has been encouraging pharmacists to help mitigate the impact of air pollution on respiratory wellbeing,” Mr Sinclair said. He added: “The adoption of preventive measures by populations all around the world during the Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact on the transmission rates not only of SARS-CoV2, but also of infectious respiratory diseases in general. However, URTIs and inflammation are and will probably remain among the most common reasons for consultations with community pharmacists.”
Production of the handbook was supported by unrestricted funds from The Clean Breathing Institute, a scientific initiative funded by GSK Consumer Healthcare. “Covid-19 has brought about deeper research into how respiratory infections are transmitted and the best ways to mitigate symptoms when managing a URTI. We want to bring all of that new knowledge to community pharmacists, so they can better help patients manage the symptoms of cold, flu and sinusitis via self-care approaches,” said Ms Tess Player, global head of expert and influence marketing at GSK Consumer Healthcare. Ms Player added: “Community pharmacists have always been at the heart of self-care, and they will continue to play a vital role in the future of healthcare systems worldwide. This is why we have made a long-term commitment to support pharmacy teams with valuable content that can help them in their daily practice, like this timely and informative handbook.”