Plagues and pandemics have ravaged humanity throughout its existence, often changing the course of history. Antonine Plague, The Black Death, Spanish Flu, Asian Flu, H1N1 Swine Flu, HIV, and now Covid-19. In the past two decades, there were a number of international viral outbreaks that have claimed thousands of lives e.g. Sars-CoV-1, Mers, Zika, Ebola etc. While it is impossible to prevent the occurrence of a pandemic, proper planning by the stakeholders can significantly reduce its impact. The core element of response to a pandemic is a basic understanding of emergency services and healthcare systems of a country including Pharmacy.
In India as well as around the globe, Pharmacists play key roles in patient care and are pillars of health care system. The onset of a pandemic results in morbidity and mortality of the general public which reflects in increased demand of pharmacists. This is supported by a leading newspaper by saying that India’s existing advantages in pharmaceuticals should be leveraged by betting on the growth of the global healthcare industry. So the multimillion-dollar question here is how pandemics affect the Pharmacy profession as a whol e?
The pharmacy profession can be divided for our convenience into two broad fields – Academia and Industry. Let’s first take a look at the Industrial perspective by observing the impact of Covid-19. Till date, hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin and some antiviral drugs are recommended for the empirical treatment of Covid-19. So, immediately that put up an upfront advantage to the companies that were approved for its production and sales around the globe. In fact, the USFDA uplifted the restrictions on IPCAs plant in India so that it can accelerate the production of hydroxychloroquine for export. There is simultaneously a very huge boost to R & D sector for developing new treatment strategies. However, the high-cost, high-reward business model of for-profit medical R&D doesn’t apply well to active pandemics, because the market immediately dries up when the crisis peters out. In fact, private sector profiteering, below par production practices and underinvestment in research has led us here in LOCKDOWN. This will also pull the legs of industry in terms of raw materials crisis- a China owned market. The negligence on the part of stakeholders is proven by the fact that only one vaccine for these infectious diseases has reached the market i.e. Ebola vaccine; and the US government has spent more than £500 m on coronavirus research over the past 20 years-with questionable motives.
Now let’s look at the pandemic from an academic perspective. Student pharmacists serve as an effective education resource for patients regarding any pandemic and can be of great assistance to a community pharmacist. Front line surveillance and alert, triage and patient referral, participation in planning are some of the roles that may be endowed to Pharmacists without hesitation. Though, in India, this role has to increase at least after facing the Covid-19 crisis. Community pharmacies offer increased access to health care in neighborhoods on a daily basis. And, during pandemics, they can be ramped up by government agencies to meet the needs of their communities. As the pharmacy profession strives to better integrate pharmacists into multi-professional healthcare teams, a change in work patterns and working environment is a road ahead. Furthermore, the academic sector gets a boost up in funding in research due to the huge publicity that a pandemic achieves. If we look at Covid-19 it has impacted the education field too by promoting the use of distant education tools. Now is the time that has actually stressed the importance of IOT, AI-like tools that must be adopted quickly by the teaching fraternity and make the education boundary free.
Concluding, being one of the pillars of healthcare system pharmacy professionals play an important role in all aspects of pandemic management. Each passing pandemic is leading the profession to its rightful place in society.