Taking a stand

Should pharmacy adopt a stronger position on environmental issues? AJP editor Chris Brooker argues that the time is right for pharmacy to take a stand

Recent weeks have seen a renewal of attacks on community pharmacists by GPs, specialists and other allied professions.

As I was writing this column [for the AJP November print edition] a number of leading GPs came out strongly in their criticism of the Pharmacy Chronic Pain MedsCheck trials (as did pain specialists, who questioned the lack of training for pharmacists involved in the program).

Unfortunately, the obvious commercial retail aspect of community pharmacy makes it an easy target for accusations of any new program or service being tied to a profit motive.

And these critics do have a point, at least when it comes to the optics of the situation. This is not by any means meant to denigrate the many good things that pharmacy does, and the incredible care and service provided by many thousands of community pharmacists, but it must affect perceptions of what pharmacists can do, and it will continue to be a problem and source of conflict as pharmacy seeks a greater role.

And this perception will also stick to hospital pharmacists, as when the public thinks of pharmacists, by and large they will think of “the local chemist”. Hospital pharmacy is to some degree anonymous as part of the broader care team, and therefore they will also be hit with the same perception.

This is why I have massive admiration for pharmacists who become involved in charity work or activism of some sort, whether it’s through Medicines Sans Frontieres or the Commonwealth Pharmacists Group to provide vital medicines and support in less fortunate parts of the globe.

It’s also why I admire Grace Wong and her Pharmacists for the Environment Australia, who we profile in our November magazine as part of our theme of pharmacy and the environment. Grace believes pharmacy has something to stand for and has a role to play in raising awareness of the health impacts of pharmaceutical waste disposal, environmental degradation, climate change and lack of sustainability.

It is people like Grace and her colleagues who show that pharmacy can be about more than day-to-day business viability and patient care. They demonstrate how pharmacists are part of the broader community in more than just their obvious role, as important and vital as this is.

This is a really powerful and important thing to do, and it’s something pharmacy as a whole should embrace. It’s beholden on the major professional bodies to develop policies on environmental practices and to show what pharmacy stands for on such an important social and community issue.

Over the next few weeks we will be running features looking at environmental issues that impact pharmacy, such as disposal of medication waste, and profiling those within the profession who are looking to grow awareness.

We hope these articles provoke thought and debate of pharmacy’s role in the greatest issue we face in 2018 and the future. 

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