The Unification of Pharmacy

Stephen F. Eckel, PharmD, MHA, BCPS, FASHP, FAPhA
Published Online: Friday, November 15, 2013
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Have you ever thought about whether there could be a universal definition of a pharmacist? A statement that succinctly captures how they are trained and what they do? One that would encompass activities that are observed in pharmacists located in North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia, including the educational structure that trained them and the governmental regulation that defines their practice capabilities?

If you have ever had the opportunity to observe pharmacy practice or education in different parts of the world, you will recognize that there are tremendous variations. Some schools of pharmacy emphasize research, others focus on pharmaceutical manufacturing, and some concentrate on clinical pharmacy.

Besides the educational infrastructure, laws granting pharmacist practice privileges differ. And there is a wide spectrum in the number of pharmacists per capita, mostly arising from limited financial resources or educational systems.

These are all issues being contemplated by the leadership and membership of the International Pharmacy Federation (FIP). The 73rd FIP International Congress in Dublin, Ireland, was recently held with the main theme of “Towards a Future Vision for Complex Patients: Integrated Care in a Dynamic Continuum.”

While these practice and education issues will not be answered quickly, FIP has established structures and forums where these practical concepts are being raised and addressed. Let me highlight a few of these that occurred during the recent Congress.
  • Basel Statements–Created in 2008, these 75 statements describe the preferred vision of pharmacy practice in the hospital setting. Pharmacists representing 98 different nations were involved in developing and voting in support of these statements. The hospital pharmacy section has worked to keep these statements alive and schedules an educational session at each conference to highlight their deployment in countries and hospitals.
A review and update of these statements is planned at the next FIP meeting in Bangkok, Thailand. I highly encourage all hospital pharmacists to plan on attending, as these guidelines have impact on the global practice of hospital pharmacy.
  • Pharmacy Technicians Symposium–For the first time, a symposium at the recent congress was held to explore and better understand the current roles that pharmacy technicians play, how they can be strengthened when working with the health care teams, and how they support the care of complex patients.
  • Pharmabridge–This program aims to strengthen pharmaceutical services and pharmacy education in developing and transitional countries. This is usually accomplished through pairing a pharmacist from a developing country with a host for 4 weeks.
I have participated in this program for the past 3 years, working with pharmacists from Nigeria, Kenya, and Ghana. While there is large interest of people wanting to go, it is limited by finding host families. I would highly encourage you to contact me if this is of interest at all. I have thoroughly enjoyed it and have continued to engage with my colleagues from developing countries professionally.
  • Dean’s Forum–Pharmacy schools have the opportunity to obtain academic institutional membership within FIP. Those schools that have joined are able to attend the dean’s forum, where the programming is based on educating the pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences workforce of the future.
There are many great things happening in the global arena of pharmacy. I have found my involvement with FIP to be very educational and would highly recommend that you attend a future congress. I can promise you it will be worthwhile—and it might lead to your going each year.


Stephen F. Eckel, PharmD, MHA, BCPS, FASHP, FAPhA, is associate director of pharmacy, University of North Carolina Hospitals and clinical associate professor, University of North Carolina Eshelman School of Pharmacy.

He was elected the chair of the Acute Care Practice Forum and board member for the North Carolina Association of Pharmacists. He served for many years in the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) House of Delegates.



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