Fred M. Eckel, RPh, MS
Turning an eye to the international stage can be informative and rewarding.
The world of pharmacy is becoming much smaller. Attending the Centennial meeting of the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) reinforced my impression that globalization is occurring in pharmacy practice as it has been in the pharmaceutical industry. Certainly, the globalization of pharmacy practice is only in its beginning, but I think it will grow even more over the next several decades for at least 2 reasons:
Every country seems to be experiencing similar problems with health care cost and access.
In most countries, pharmacists are being recognized as a key solution to address these problems.
Even though some countries are farther along in the utilization of pharmacists, or have more financial resources to utilize them or try different approaches to deliver health care, no one seems to have it right. Thus, pharmacists in every country can learn something from each other.
The FIP Centennial Congress was held in Amsterdam from October 3 to 8, 2012, to celebrate its founding in 1912 in the Netherlands. FIP released a publication From Making Medicine to Optimizing Outcomes: The Evolution of a Profession 1912- 2012.
This work covers the origins of the profession and then discusses the challenges presented by an increasingly regulated environment. Two summary statements from the book demonstrate to me the common problems and opportunities for pharmacists globally.
“However, no profession or business can safely regard its long-term survival as assured. FIP also needs to raise awareness of threats, including the danger that poorly planned attempts to generate short term financial savings could—if they were to stop pharmacists from being able to deliver anything more than a basic drug supply service—deprive communities across the world of significant long-term benefits.”
“History indicates that to continue being relevant in the 21st century, pharmacists must offer timely and economic ways of solving contemporary health problems to go on attracting public and political support. Pharmacy’s ongoing success will—as with all professional trades— ultimately depend on its members’ ability to recognize and publicly communicate that what matters most to them is preserving the lives and optimizing the wellbeing of the people and populations they have the privilege to serve.”
You may be thinking now, “This is interesting, but I am not in a position to contribute to global pharmacy.” You might be surprised. I met an American pharmacist at the FIP meeting who asked me not to share his name as I share his story. He is a successful compounding pharmacist with a strong humanitarian interest. A vacation to Costa Rica got him interested in that part of the world, and he returned to see if his skills as a compounding pharmacist could be helpful. A university professor put him in touch with a local pharmacist and through that connection, a successful professional arrangement was established.
This pharmacist told me that he feels as if he has made a real contribution to people’s needs in Costa Rica. From this foray into international activities, he became aware of an FIP initiative called Pharmabridge (www.pharmabridge.org
) which, as part of its activities, connects pharmacist learners with pharmacists who are willing to share their experiences. He has since trained several international pharmacists in compounding. He said that he never dreamed he would be able to take his pharmacy experience and make a difference internationally, but the participation through Pharmabridge has provided him with a rewarding cultural and professional experience. He wants to do more.
There is nothing wrong with being proud of our country. But I have begun to realize that I am also part of a global pharmacy movement. As this American pharmacist told me, when you get involved with international pharmacy activities, you get more back than you give. Check out the Pharmabridge and FIP websites if you want to gain a global pharmacy perspective (www.fip.org
As you help others, you may find that you receive more than you gave—and you’ve become a more satisfied and caring pharmacist, too, and your current patients will end up benefiting as well.
Mr. Eckel is a professor emeritus at the Eshelman School of Pharmacy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is past executive director of the North Carolina Association of Pharmacists.