Nuclear Pharmacists' Role Not Recognized by Health Care Professionals

Half of health care professionals surveyed in a recent study were unaware of the role pharmacists play in nuclear medicine departments.

Half of health care professionals surveyed in a recent study were unaware of the role pharmacists play in nuclear medicine departments.

Nuclear medicine is defined as the practice of using radioactive substances for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. Often, radiopharmaceuticals are dispensed from the nuclear pharmacy unit and monitored for formulation and quality controls by nuclear pharmacists. However, there is also a growing need for nuclear pharmacists who can focus on providing better radiopharmaceutical care to patients.

For their study published in the December 2014-February 2015 edition of the Journal of Basic and Clinical Pharmacy, researchers from AIMST University in Malaysia surveyed 741 health care professionals on the role and availability of pharmacists in their nuclear medicine departments. Participants were recruited through social media websites between April 2013 and March 2014, and 621 completed surveys were included in the researchers’ final analysis.

Of the respondents, 390 were working in hospitals, and 57.6% of them were pharmacists. Although roughly half of the study participants knew about nuclear pharmacists (55.39%), overall awareness on the role of pharmacists in nuclear medicine was poor, and only 29.63% of respondents were aware of the use of radiopharmaceuticals in the health care system.

Corresponding study author Subramani Parasuraman explained to Pharmacy Times that, in the old days, pharmacists merely dispensed medications, but now, there is a growing need for radiopharmaceutical specialists who can contribute to the health care system.

“The pharmacist's role in managing radioactive substances is very important in various aspects of formulation, quality control, patient safety, and counseling,” the researchers wrote. “…Since a pharmacist has complete knowledge about formulation, quality control of pharmaceutical substances, patient education, and patient counseling, pharmacist can provide better pharmaceutical care to patients along with other nuclear medicine team members.”

The study authors concluded that health care professionals need to be educated on the pharmacist’s role in nuclear medicine so that department members can provide better pharmaceutical care to patients.