ARLINGTON, Va. — Steve Anderson, president and chief executive officer of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, and Gigi Kwik Gronvall, senior associate at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, discussed the increasingly important role pharmacists are playing in public health in a recent op-ed published in Morning Consult.
In the opinion piece, Anderson and Gronvall highlight findings in an NACDS-funded study by the Johns Hopkins center, “Serving the Greater Good: Public Health and Community Pharmacy Partnerships.” The report describes ways to optimize pharmacy’s role in public health priorities, including addressing antimicrobial resistance, confronting the opioid abuse crisis, and fostering pandemic and emergency preparedness.
With the opioid abuse epidemic spreading unabated, the study’s recommendations for fighting the scourge are likely to generate the most attention. However, the report also focuses on another urgent health crisis that too is escalating at a breakneck pace and threatening to reach epidemic proportions as well — antibiotic resistance.
This issue of antibiotics potentially becoming useless to fight off infections has become such a serious threat that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention promoted November 13 through November 19 as U.S. Antibiotic Awareness Week in an effort to reach broader populations with key messages about proper prescription and use.
According to Anderson and Gronvall, health care professionals are realizing it is time to act to prevent a heartbreaking development — that of families being told nothing can be done to save a loved one, a real possibility when an out-of-control bacterial infection can overpower antibiotics rendered ineffective due to overuse.
“Pharmacists have the experience, access and resources to play an integral role in helping to stop this threat,” the authors opine on the issue of antibiotic resistance. “The opportunity is tremendous. Pharmacists are already serving as working public health partners for solutions on many fronts.”
Along with the antibiotic awareness week, the CDC has also launched its rebranded Be Antibiotics Aware campaign. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria infect over 2 million people and are directly responsible for more than 23,000 deaths annually, Anderson and Gronvall note.
The first case in the U.S. of a pan-resistant bacterial infection — bacteria resistant to all available antibiotics — was identified in August 2016, the authors point out.
“Community pharmacy can play an important role in providing patient education, performing tests to correctly identify infections so that antibiotic use is appropriate and helping sufferers manage disease symptoms. All of these strategies will help to lessen the pressure for inappropriate, unnecessary and ineffective antibiotic use,” Anderson and Gronvall wrote. “Pharmacists are in an excellent position to educate the public about the appropriate use of antibiotics.”
Pharmacists are already serving as working public health partners for solutions on many fronts, such as helping to curb opioid abuse, they noted.