Pharmacists should play a bigger role in pharmaceutical supply chains, the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) says in a new report. Inefficient supply chains are partly to blame for a substantial proportion of the world still being without access to basic live-saving medicines, it maintains.

The report, Pharmacists in the supply chain: The role of the medicines expert in ensuring quality and availability, gives a global overview of the role of pharmacists in different supply chains in low-, middle- and high-income countries, and describes the evolution of supply chains.

“The need to ensure effective and safe medicines supply prompted FIP to take a close look at the actual role of pharmacists in pharmaceutical supply chains. This report aims to provide a foundation from which improvement can develop,” said FIP’s Working Group on Pharmacists in the Supply Chain co-chair, Ulf Janzon.

Through literature and survey data reviews as well as nine country case studies, the working group identified pharmacists as having expertise that is critical to supply chain integrity.

“The report recognises different levels of maturity of supply systems that could be used as a basis for discussion, particularly in developing countries. It doesn’t aim to describe a single gold standard system, but, rather, it seeks to highlight that all systems should ensure efficient supply of quality medicines. It also draws attention to the effect of globalisation on the supply chain, which is adding complexities to ensuring appropriate quantities of quality medicines,” Janzon said.

Importantly, the report points out that investment in training and education are needed to strengthen pharmacists’ roles in supply chains. And it details the competencies that these roles require.

“Pharmacists engaged, or interested in being engaged, in the supply chain may need special courses, which are not always provided by the basic curriculum. For example, these pharmacists often assume leadership roles and so courses in leadership and management should be provided in addition to courses in logistics,”  Janzon added. 

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