International Pharmacy Practice...Without Planning, We Plan to Fail

Author: Fred M. Eckel, RPh, MS Pharmacy Times Editor-in-Chief

A look at the worldwide pharmacy community reveals that we share many of the same challenges.

Early in my career, I was fortunate to have some mentors who were engaged in international pharmacy interests. Their influence gave me a desire to understand pharmacy practice outside of the United States. To help gain these broader insights, I joined the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) and participated in some of their meetings over the years.

In my role as director of an MS/residency program, I made an effort to recruit 1 international student each year. I had the opportunity to interact with pharmacists who received their initial training in South Africa, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Ghana, Nigeria, China, Ireland, Switzerland, Iceland, Venezuela, and Hungary. Having an international trainee in the program helped American pharmacy students gain a more global perspective, and it also helped develop leaders who could impact pharmacy practice advancements when they returned to their home country. On reflection, I feel as if I personally got the most out of my efforts to help international pharmacists because I appreciate different cultures now.

I also gained the realization that pharmacists globally have much in common. Our goals are similar, but our resources are different. I learned that one way of doing something in pharmacy may not be the only way—or even the best way—to do it. These reflections were crystallized for me again when I attended the FIP meeting in Hyderabad, India, in September.

Let me share a few observations with you from this meeting that reminded me that as pharmacists we are part of a global profession, and we can learn a great deal by paying attention to what others are doing. It can also be encouraging to realize that our struggles are often universal for all pharmacists, and the successes of other pharmacists can energize us to continue our own efforts.

FIP instituted an Academic Institutional Membership, and I attended their Deans’ Forum while in India. Hearing formal presentations from deans of new pharmacy schools in Qatar, Namibia, and Australia reminded me that new schools of pharmacy are emerging across the world. Australia, like the United States, is raising concerns about a possible oversupply of pharmacists as new schools begin graduating their trainees. It was my observation that many countries still look to the United States and are implementing PharmD degree programs, but even more encouraging to me, regardless of the educational approach, was an effort to advance the pharmacist as a member of the health care team and to ensure that graduates have a patient care focus.

The session on “Regulatory and Legislative Changes in Pharmacy From Across the World” was another exciting session. Here are a few observations: regardless of the type of government, all are struggling with the financing of health care. Pharmacists must understand what government wants and show how our profession can best meet that goal. Although safe drug distribution is important, payment for that role is decreasing under every type of political system. Pharmacists who try to hold onto that role will have trouble surviving in the future. This is a message I have believed to be true for our country. To learn that it is a common message across the world is encouraging, because it reinforces for me that what we are trying to do here is the right thing.

A third session I attended was sponsored by the Hospital Pharmacy Section. In 2008, this session developed goals for hospital pharmacy practice internationally. Called the “Basal Statements,” the session looked at how the use of this document could help advance hospital pharmacy in both developed and developing countries. I have always known that without planning we plan to fail. This session reminded me once again that planning is important, but measuring our progress against that plan is even more important.

If we want to change community pharmacy practice in our country, then we need to create our own Basal Statement and a system to measure how our individual pharmacies are progressing against this goal. Could an accreditation program for Community Pharmacy help us do this? is the question I asked myself as I left this session.

I have many other reflections from my visit to Hyderabad and attendance at this international pharmacy meeting. Pharmacists truly are part of a global profession. Some countries have a more advanced pharmacist role than we do in the United States, so we can learn from others. Engaging with pharmacists from other countries can refresh our own perspective, refocus our efforts, and help us relearn what our practice role can be. Next year, FIP will be celebrating its centennial year at its annual meeting in Amsterdam (October 3 to 8, 2012). I encourage you to consider joining FIP and attending this meeting. Maybe we will see each other in Amsterdam! PT

Mr. Eckel is a professor at the Eshelman School of Pharmacy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He serves as executive director of the North Carolina Association of Pharmacists.