A Portuguese pharmacy program which aims to guarantee access to medicines in the aftermath of a financial crisis has been lauded by FIP
The program, known as “Abem,” was the winner of the International Pharmaceutical Federation’s (FIP’s) 2019 Pharmacy Practice Improvement Award, given at the organisation’s conference in Abu Dhabi.
Abem was the first initiative launched by the Associação Dignitude (Dignity Association), which was established by the National Association of Pharmacies, the Portuguese Pharmaceutical Industry Association and representatives of the country’s social sector.
According to OECD data, 29% of the health expenditure in Portugal is out-of-pocket and it is estimated that one in 10 citizens cannot afford all the medicines they need.
Under the Abem program, both public and private entities are able to identify people experiencing economic difficulties and refer them to be assessed for entitlement to an Abem card.
Card-holders can present their prescriptions at any of the 574 participating community pharmacies and receive their medicines free of charge (only being required to pay the standard national health service fee) as well as pharmaceutical care.
The program is available nationally and is funded by donations, including from pharmacies themselves.
Since its start in May 2016, the program has supported over 7,000 people in need. The pharmacists taking part in the programme are required to improve their scientific and social competencies continuously.
Pharmacy students are also able to volunteer to participate in the Abem program, which helps them to understand the responsibility of the pharmacist to tackle poor access to medicines and other inequalities.
“This program has promoted the role of pharmacists as an essential and close healthcare agent in society,” said Duarte Santos, board member of the National Association of Pharmacies, a member organisation of FIP.
“Abem pharmacists are the main component towards a more inclusive society and positive health outcomes for all. Providing people with access to medicines they need also contributes to reducing costs of emergency treatments and hospital admissions,” he said.
“It is a great honour to have this cherished program, carried out by pharmacies, recognised worldwide. This award will only strengthen Abem’s purpose of guaranteeing access to medicines and health to every Portuguese citizen and, who knows, be an inspiration to our fellow international pharmacists.”
Best national pharmacy health campaign
Meanwhile FIP’s 2019 Health Promotion Campaign Award went to the Brazilian Federal Council of Pharmacy (CFF) in recognition of its work with Brazil’s biggest media network to communicate the value of pharmacists.
The CFF worked to ensure that pharmacists and pharmacy students were able to take full advantage of an invitation from the network to take part in its Global Well-Being Project, which comprised nine events in cities across Brazil and was watched by 9.7 million people.
The preparatory work included collaborating with regional pharmacy councils, universities and other professional associations in order to carry out special training so that pharmacists were able to demonstrate the extent of the services the profession can offer as well as best clinical practice during the events.
For example, these pharmacists taught people with diabetes how to use insulin safely and showed people with asthma how to produce homemade spacers for inhaler devices.
At some events, pharmacists even carried out Pap smear tests and provided information on cervical cancer. Other disease areas in which pharmaceutical care was demonstrated included hypertension, high cholesterol and obesity.
During the events, 1,450 people had their blood pressure measured, 796 had their cholesterol measured, 1,447 had capillary glycaemia measurements, and 397 had their pulmonary capacity measured ― all by pharmacists. Pharmacists screened 153 women for cervical cancer, 3% of whom had never been tested, with 11 being referred to specialists for treatment.
“The pharmaceutical profession in Brazil has undergone major transformations in recent years and the Global Well-Being Project has been a way to show that to people,” said Dr Walter Jorge João, CFF president.
Before and during each event, CFF spokespersons also gave interviews to radio, newspaper and television, explaining the capabilities and value of pharmacists.
“CFF’s investment in this project offered a great opportunity to improve the image of pharmacists in society and among other health professions at the events, who could see how pharmacists can track conditions and refer patients appropriately,” Dr João said.
He added: “The degree of media exposure gained would normally have cost a large sum. Moreover, our participation generated opportunities to meet with healthcare managers whom the programme had reached.”