Group Editorial Director
Mr. Schu is group editorial director for MJH & Associates.
The 2009 American Pharma-cists Association (APhA) conference, held in San Antonio, Texas, earlier this year, was a good event for Procter & Gamble (P&G). The company provided funding for a well-attended International Forum on Global Phar-macy Education, which addressed assuring competence, quality, and consistency in pharmacy education worldwide. Also at the show, P&G was the recipient of the 2009 H.A.B. Dunning Award—the most prestigious honor bestowed upon a member of the pharmaceutical industry by the profession of pharmacy.
The award, established in 1983, acknowledges an exemplary contribution to the practice of pharmacy by a pharmaceutical manufacturer or provider of support products and services. In particular, P&G was cited for their “continued commitment to en-hancing the role of the pharmacist as a patient care practitioner.”
P&G has supported many important APhA educational and professional development programs over the years. For example, the OTC Advisor Certificate Training Program was created through a grant from P&G. This program educates pharmacists on self-care and how to effectively communicate with patients about the many OTC choices. In 2007, the program was able to expand to nurse practitioners and physician assistants. The APhA Media Advisors, pharmacists who have been trained to provide media interviews that portray the positive role and knowledge of the pharmacist, were created through a partnership with P&G. Today, more than 50 advisors have been deployed to educate consumers on a variety of topics, including OTC medications, the Medicare Part D gap, heartburn awareness, and osteoporosis.
With a stable of major OTC products, including Prilosec OTC, Pepto-Bismol, and Vicks to name just a few, P&G has a vested interest in ensuring that pharmacists provide optimal care to patients. Pharmacy Times recently spoke with Tim Brown, general manager of P&G’s North America Personal Health Division, about the award and the company’s commitment to working with pharmacists.
PT: What has been behind the long-standing commitment of P&G to include the pharmacist in outreach and educational efforts?
Brown: We’re a very consumer-focused company. In the medical space, the consumer is the patient. No one is closer to the con-sumer on a day-to-day basis than the pharmacist, helping patients understand what their medication is all about, how to take it, and how not to take it. The pharmacist is front and center—always available. That’s one reason they are among the most trusted health care professionals, and they always score high with consumers, who see pharmacists as respected professionals.
PT: As a company with a full suite of medications available over-the-counter, it must be gratifying to see that both chains and inde-pendent pharmacies are taking steps to ensure that pharmacists can interact more frequently with patients.
Brown: It is, yes. Pharmacists are getting out from behind the counter more and more, taking advantage of the extensive training they have. A lot of our interaction at APhA, and many of our educational grants, have been focused on helping train pharmacists even better for those interactions. Consumers obviously understand the pharmacist’s role in dispensing prescription drugs. But the distinction between an OTC medication and one that is only available by prescription is, at best, an arcane one. These are all po-tent medicines, and they need to be managed and dosed properly. Every medication is different, and they all have very different labeling for a reason. Whatever the restrictions or warnings, pharmacists can really help patients understand what they’re taking. Our goal has been to help train pharmacists in that interaction.
PT: One factor that makes pharmacist interactions with patients more challenging is the lack of systematic plans for reimbursing pharmacists for this role. Is P&G working with pharmacy representatives to help pave the way for more time with patients?
Brown: P&G wouldn’t get into the mechanics of pharmacies’ work systems and workflow. But the discussion I’ve had with retail management at some of the bigger chains is how to put pharmacists into position to provide the best care. They understand the needs and the issues involved. The big chains are, on their own, pursuing a number of different initiatives. But many of the people I work with regularly—my counterparts at all major chains—have their own personal sense of how we can utilize this great profes-sion. So there is organic movement toward finding efficiencies that allow pharmacists more time to interact with patients.
PT: What does it mean to you to receive the Dunning Award?
Brown: It is a huge thrill for me and for the company. When I was the Vicks brand manager about 12 years ago, we were in an educational and credentialing project with APhA. I was working with a number of senior staff there to do some advertising and test marketing. We shot some commercials that showed the pharmacist coming out and talking to the consumer about OTC products. APhA is an organization that stands for the profession, helps guide the profession, and represents the profession brilliantly. I have long had a sense for how the organization is trying to lead change and improve health, beyond even their efforts to advance the practice of pharmacy. It’s a great honor, really.
And it was nice to be recognized at APhA, where there are so many students who are right on the verge of practicing phar-macy. They bring such an energy and enthusiasm for the profession. I had never seen anything like it.
PT: How will the pharmacist’s role continue to expand?
Brown: Consumers recognize the pharmacists as great authorities with regard to prescription medications, but sometimes don’t think of the pharmacist when they’re considering OTC medications. We’re trying to help change that mentality.
Clearly, health and well-being is not a fad. It’s a major trend. Consumers understand their role in their own health care, and that they have a big role to play in it. We’ve done some worldwide surveys, and we see that this is a growing trend. It has to do with the design of health systems worldwide and the aging of the baby boomers. The resource they’re going to tap is the one they’ve al-ways known—the pharmacy and their local pharmacist.
The health care system is going to evolve too, to utilize pharmacists better. Pharmacists are going to become more accessible, and consumers are going to continue to grow more inquisitive, and both trends are going to come together to play a huge role in the evolution of the pharmacist’s role.