By Bakani M. Ncube
Pharmacists are and have always been the custodians of medicine and our extensive training makes us the most knowledgeable health care professionals when it comes to medicines and their use but that role is evolving with each passing day as we take up a more varied role in the healthcare sector.
The theme for this years’ World Pharmacists Day, “From research to healthcare: Your pharmacist is at your service” was selected and rightfully so by the FIP and the theme “reflects the numerous contributions the pharmacy profession makes to health. From research and development of medicines, to educating future pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists, and providing direct care, we do all this in the service of our patients and communities” says FIP President, Dr. Carmen Pena.
The provision of direct care does not begin in a hospital when a patient has been admitted or in a community pharmacy; it begins in a laboratory with research. Taking care of our patients, our fellow human being, starts with the acknowledging and the recognition of health issues of populations and developing medicines, policies and education to tackle them. Currently, an emphasis is being placed on pharmacists as being the “backbone of health care in many different settings”.
“We the pharmacists are often there at the beginning of the process – when the first molecule that effectively treats a disease is identified” explains Dr. Pena and this is a fact that has been proved over the years, the statement brings to mind the biography of Eli Lilly and company (1876 – 1948). He was a pharmacist whose company was the third largest pharmaceutical manufacturer in the world on its fiftieth anniversary in 1926 owing to the research they were carrying out that led to insulin. The Lilly Company’s contribution was the movement from a small scale laboratory production of insulin to large scale manufacture after the research work carried out by a team from the University of Toronto. This was a genuine partnership between science and industry and pharmacists were at the forefront of this work. In 1924, J.K Lilly proudly wrote, “The days of Creek Indian remedies were gone, replaced by an expertise and a confidence that encouraged aggressive searching for sophisticated and efficacious new drugs and new ways to manufacture them”.
Research is the systematic investigation, including testing and development, designed to develop and contribute to generalizable knowledge. An increasing portion of human research is now becoming information based with clinical trials being the most common form of health research.. Research techniques and findings have evolved continually throughout the last century and we have had our part to play in this.
Ensuring research is an integral part of the healthcare system and it encourages all professionals to question and rationalize clinical management. It creates a culture of continual learning and development and assists us to learn more about our chosen area, to have confidence in the treatments we are offering and to learn from our patients. Evidence has shown that patients who receive care in research active hospitals have better health outcomes owing to research active institutions offering wider treatment options and more opportunities to be included in clinical trials. This highlights the importance of research to overall service delivery, to us as pharmacists being at our patients service.
A lot of work has been done and is still being done as far as research goes and the onus is on us to ensure that research and development continue to occur for the benefit of our patients who rely on us for medical interventions.