Trainee pharmacists should be educated on the medicines supply chain elements to improve access to medicines, a report by a pharmacy organisation has revealed.

Findings from the pharmacist representative body the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) showed that investment in training and education are needed to strengthen pharmacists’ roles in pharmaceutical supply chains.

Consulting organisation Pharmaceutical Systems Africa programme director Dr Lloyd Matowe said that some of these supply chain functions, such as procurement, distribution and storage of commodities, are rarely taught in pharmacy schools.

‘Specialised supply chain components’

He continued: ‘The pharmacy profession should remedy this by including specialised supply chain components in the curriculum or by encouraging pharmacists interested in these components to undergo extra training in addition to their pharmacy degree.

‘[…] Pharmacists are the fulcrums of medicines management and should be involved in some of the components of the supply chain.’

They play a ‘key role at both ends of the supply chain’, from choosing the right medicine for their patients to advising them on how to use it optimally, the report added.

It said: ‘Pharmacists are medicines experts with an essential role to play in the full range of activities of the supply chain, from the production of medicines ­­– both industry scale and extemporaneous – to their administration to patients and after’.

More investment needed

The report argued that inefficient pharmaceutical supply chains coupled with a lack of financial resources have led to one third of the global population being without access to basic life-saving medicines.

FIP’s working group on pharmacists in the supply chain chair Ulf Janzon said: ‘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.’