Substandard and falsified (SF) medical products as defined by the World Health Organization, are major threats to public health. Through increasing globalisation, the problem has expanded in both developed and developing countries.
Pharmacists are key to combatting SF medical products because they are healthcare professionals with direct access to patients. Pharmacists are the gatekeeper for appropriate medication management. Pharmacists are not only necessary to ensure supply of medicines in a proper and just manner, but they also check for unauthorised sales of medicines or medical products that are not of certified quality. As the final member of the pharmaceutical distribution chain as well as often being supply chain managers, pharmacists are crucial in preventing introduction of SF medicines into the supply chain and in promoting adherence to good distribution practices.
Policy and advocacy
FIP has been speaking out against counterfeit medicines for over 20 years. We believe that pharmacists, pharmaceutical scientists and educators can be a vital asset in assuring the safety of patients through their active participation in the fight against SF medical products. The commitment of the pharmacy profession is visible through FIP’s Statement of Policy on Counterfeit Medicines. This key document is a strong political message from the profession in support of the fight against fake medicines.
FIP represents pharmacists’ voices at various stakeholder commissions, such as the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on Minimising Public Health Risks Posed by Falsification of Medical Products and Similar Crimes (CD-P-PH/CMED) and the World Health Professions Alliance (WHPA). FIP also works with partners from the private sector, such as Fight the Fakes Alliance and IFPMA, for example on joint statements and advocacy campaigns.
Raising awareness and building capacity
If well trained, pharmacists in community and hospital settings can quickly detect SF medical products that have penetrated the supply chains and report them to authorities, as well as educate and advise patients who have been exposed to them.
Sub-Saharan Africa is particularly vulnerable to SF medical products. However, too few pharmacists receive formal input relating to SF medical products during their training or after qualification. Having considered the need for standardised, formal training to be systematically incorporated in the pharmaceutical curricula, and the pivotal role that can be played by pharmacists to prevent SF medical products from causing harm, FIP partnered with the World Health Organization (WHO) on a project commissioned by the European Commission to target pharmacists and improve their awareness and understanding of SF medical product threats through effective communication, education and training. This project also benefitted from collaboration with the International Conference of French-Speaking Chambers of Pharmacists, the Commonwealth Pharmacists Association, and five universities in sub-Saharan Africa.
As a result, jointly with the WHO and partners, FIP has developed a competency framework for pharmacists, that outlines a menu of core knowledge, skills and attitudes relating to SF medical products for pharmacy undergraduates. It lists the requisite competencies (at the pre-service level) to address SF medical products in policy and practice settings. Based on the framework, a comprehensive course on SF medical products for pharmacy students was developed. The course formalises and structures information available to pharmacists, covering the root causes of SF medical products, early warning signals, good procurement practices, working with authorities, and advice to patients.
To date, the course has been successfully deployed in universities in Cameroon, Senegal and Tanzania. In 2022, universities in Uganda and Nigeria will implement the course in their curriculum.
The course is available in French and English and supported by a Curriculum Guide and Moodle. The curriculum guide serves as a tool for education on SF medical products and can be adapted to the needs of individual training institutions. It provides practical tips and is supplemented with modules aligned with the WHO prevention-detection-response strategy. These tools were presented at a roundtable hosted by WHO in March 2022
The course is suitable for educators, faculties of pharmacy training institutions, health regulatory institutions and others who wish to meet their respective needs for strengthening pharmacists’ contributions to containing the SF medical products threat to public health. If you are interested in deploying the course, please contact FIP at email@example.com.