Guidance for pharmacists across all sectors to support the prevention and management of iron deficiency anaemia has been published by the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP).

Its new handbook, ‘Iron deficiency anaemia: Managing symptoms and supporting self-care’, provides a comprehensive guide for pharmacists to manage iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) effectively and patient education.

It aims to equip pharmacists with information on treatment options, holistic approaches including the need for iron-rich diets, and physical activity, screening and preventive measures.

It also provides the knowledge needed to offer advice to more vulnerable populations, such as children, non-pregnant women of reproductive age, pregnant or breastfeeding individuals, elderly people with chronic diseases, and patients with chronic blood loss.

‘IDA, which affects 1.2 billion individuals worldwide, is preventable and treatable, highlighting the importance of early detection,’ the handbook stated.

‘Pharmacists, as accessible healthcare providers, bear a critical responsibility to educate patients, tailored to factors like age, sex, underlying conditions and the causes of IDA, encompassing self-care interventions and various management approaches,’ the handbook added.

It suggested that in a community pharmacy setting, pharmacists can provide information on preventing and managing IDA, such as eating iron-rich foods.

And it highlighted successful examples of pharmacies providing accessible point-of-care testing, suggesting that there was 'an opportunity to train the pharmacy workforce to conduct early detection and screening of the disease'.

'In community or primary healthcare settings, pharmacists can support identifying common signs and symptoms of ID, with or without anaemia, such as fatigue and weakness, pale skin, dizziness, shortness of breath, fast or irregular heartbeat, strange cravings to eat items that are not food, a tingling or crawling feeling in the legs, cold hands and feet, tongue swelling or soreness, brittle nails, hair loss and headache,' the handbook said. It also outlined a list of questions and a clinical pathway that could be used with a patient.

The handbook additionally describes IDA roles for pharmacists in hospital pharmacies and research.

Commenting on the handbook’s publication, FIP chief executive Catherine Duggan, said: ‘With the increasing role of pharmacists in the healthcare system, pharmacists can play a vital role in providing health information on the prevention and management of iron deficiency anaemia. It is, therefore, a pleasure to present this comprehensive handbook for pharmacists to serve as a guiding resource.

‘This handbook was developed in response to the recommendations from a FIP roundtable report in 2022, which highlighted the increasing opportunity for pharmacists to contribute to achieving the World Health Organization’s target of reducing anaemia by 50% among women of reproductive age by 2025.’

Alongside reading the handbook, FIP recommended pharmacists undertake further professional programmes designed to enhance competence in managing IDA, such as workshops, self-directed learning opportunities, or continuing professional development courses.

It also champions collaboration with national professional leadership bodies to facilitate this learning and the sharing of best practices.

A version of this article first appeared in our sister publication Hospital Pharmacy Europe.