Pharmacists key in harm reduction

Governments must work more with pharmacists on providing harm reduction services, says FIP

Pharmacists must be fully involved in the development of any policies regarding medical or recreational cannabis, the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) has said in a new Statement of Policy.

“This statement is extremely timely, given the escalating number of unnecessary deaths caused by the non-medical use of opioids and other drugs, and given the increasing discussions on cannabis policies around the world,” says Andy Gray, Vice President of FIP.

“The profession ― pharmacists and their national organisations ― needs to actively engage with governments and policymakers as these very fluid situations evolve. This is the key message of the statement.”

This new FIP Statement of Policy follows the publication of FIP’s report in November 2017 which described pharmacy services around the world that serve to reduce harm from drugs of abuse.

The specifications made in the report for what a comprehensive harm reduction service should include (for example, the supply of naloxone) have been affirmed by the FIP Council through their inclusion in the policy statement.

This FIP Council comprised representatives of 140 national pharmacy organisations across the globe.

“There is good evidence for involving pharmacists, and community pharmacies in particular, in a wide range of harm reduction activities,”Mr Gray says.

“And, with regards to the supply of cannabis for medical purposes, the expertise of pharmacists must be utilised.”

The policy statement points out that an argument could be made, based on harm reduction principles, that pharmacies are the best option for the supply of cannabis for recreational purposes.

However, it stresses that such an approach must only be developed in consultation with pharmacists.

Strong opposition from professional organisations to the supply of recreational cannabis from pharmacies is acknowledged.

In particular, FIP says that the concerns of pharmacists regarding their ethical obligations and standing in their communities must be carefully considered in the development of such a policy.

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