Pharmacy practice in emergency response during the COVID-19 pandemic: Lessons from Australia

Daya Ram Parajuli, Saval Khanal, Kannikar Hannah Wechkunanukul, Saurav Ghimire, Arjun Poudel

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of the pharmacy practice and initiatives taken by the Australian federal government to ensure the continued supply of essential medicines under the conditions of an emergency response plan for COVID-19. During the pandemic, Australian pharmacists have been working collaboratively with multidisciplinary teams at the frontline to manage the equitable and safe supply of medicines despite the unprecedented situation. Although these presented problems for small pharmacies, social distancing policies were implemented widely to maintain personal and environmental hygiene and reduce the number of face-to-face patient visits. In collaboration with various pharmaceutical stakeholders, the Australian government responded rapidly to ensure equitable and sufficient supply with continued access to therapeutic goods during the pandemic. Additionally, vital policies and practices have been implemented, including supplying regular medicines at government-subsidized prices, a maximum one-month supply of some prescription medicines and purchase limits on over-the-counter medicines (one unit per purchase), medication management reviews through telehealth, electronic and digital prescribing, home delivery of medicines to vulnerable people and those in home isolation and the provision of serious shortage medicine substitution rights to pharmacists. Pharmacists were encouraged to communicate and collaborate with other local pharmacies to ensure that essential pharmacy services met community needs (e.g., opening hours). However, there has been a shortage of some medicines due to supply chain disruption and increased demand due to the pandemic. Higher demand for flu vaccinations, increased work pressure in pharmacies, and severe frustration and anxiety in pharmacy customers were also reported. Vigilance is required to monitor foreseeable shortages of therapeutics goods, particularly in regional pharmacies. There is an opportunity for long-term change to retain certain rights and roles based on the competence shown by pharmacists in this challenging period, such as telephone medication reviews, telehealth for MedsCheck and Diabetes MedsCheck, digital prescription handling and therapeutic substitution.

Original languageEnglish
JournalResearch in Social and Administrative Pharmacy
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • Australia
  • COVID-19
  • Pharmacist
  • Pharmacy

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