Global focus on pharmacist harm minimisation

FIP has released a new report outlining the value of involving pharmacists in reducing harm from drugs of abuse

The new International Pharmaceutical Federation report describes harm reduction services such as needle exchange and opioid substitution in different regions and countries, including Europe, the USA, Canada, central Asia and the Middle East. 

FIP’s Working Group on Pharmacists’ Role in Harm Reduction, which put the report together, is encouraging pharmacy organisations to engage with policymakers and health authorities to remove barriers to more involvement of pharmacists in harm reduction services.

“Of 158 countries that reported people who inject drugs, only 90 implement needle exchange programs,” says working group chair Andy Gray.

“Yet the benefits of harm reduction are many — both to individuals and society — including prevention of infection by HIV and hepatitis C, fewer overdoses and less drug-related criminal activity.

“The report specifies that a comprehensive service should include: syringe and needle exchange (with the provision of low-dead space syringes where possible); opioid substitution therapy (preferably with pharmacist prescribing or dose adjustment); naloxone supply for overdoses (including pharmacist-initiated supply); and health promotion (including advice on sexual health).”

He says that in addition, against a background of shifting policies on marijuana around the world, the report also addresses questions over the supply from pharmacies of marijuana or cannabinoid-containing products for the purpose of medicinal use or recreational use, or both.

“The working group considers that arguments could be made for the sale of marijuana from a pharmacy based on harm reduction principles but that such policies must be developed in conjunction with pharmacists and take into account concerns over the potential damage to pharmacists’ standing in the public eye.

“There needs to be an evidence-informed process of public policy development,” Mr Gray said. 

This year pharmacies in Uruguay have started selling marijuana for recreational use, though the program has not been without its troubles.

It is anticipated that the report, “Reducing harm associated with drugs of abuse: The role of pharmacists”, will lead to a new statement of FIP policy in this area.

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