Helping Pharmacists Fight Antimicrobial Resistance – Q&A with Dr. Catherine Duggan, CEO, International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP)

By Tiffany Bias, PharmD, BCPS, BCIDP, AAHIVP, Director of Antimicrobial Stewardship – East, at bioMérieux, Inc.

Interviewing: Catherine Duggan, FRPharmS, CEO of the International Pharmaceutical Federation

October is American Pharmacists Month, and we’ve teamed up with the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) to bring you an interview with Dr. Catherine Duggan, CEO, about how pharmacists and the pharmaceutical industry at large can contribute to the fight against antimicrobial resistance. This Q&A has been lightly edited and condensed for the purposes of this article.

Can you start by sharing a little bit about FIP and what the organization does?

FIP is a global organization representing over 4 million pharmacists, pharmaceutical scientists, and pharmacy educators. FIP has a long history of advocating for advancement of pharmacy at the international level, leading to a meaningful change at national level, in collaboration with our members. In order to continue moving the role of the pharmacist into the future, it is important that pharmacists advocate for their expanded scope of practice as healthcare providers. Research has proven that clinical services provided by pharmacists improve patient outcomes—the goal of all health care professionals.

Antimicrobial resistance is a major public health threat, which currently kills around 700,000 people each year worldwide. Combating it effectively requires concerted action across industries and countries. What strategies can be employed on both a national and international level to promote advocacy in pharmacy? 

One of the long-term strategies we have applied is to advocate for pharmacists to use their vast knowledge about medicines and medication to manage therapies through the provision of professional services rather than technical tasks. Using pharmacists’ expertise and clinical role to their full potential is critical so that other healthcare professionals and their patients can benefit.

We can use the members of FIP Commission on Antimicrobial Resistance  to advocate for pharmacy within their own countries. Additionally, the FIP website houses links to AMR resources—documents, training webinars, toolkits and articles—as a strategy to promote the role of pharmacists in fighting AMR.

FIP recently established a Commission on Antimicrobial Resistance. What was the impetus for the new initiative? Where has the FIP found successes thus far around AMR and antimicrobial stewardship? 

Fighting antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has been a priority for FIP for many years. It is a major public health concern with profound impacts on global, regional and national health care and economies. FIP, and pharmacists globally, have been long committed to being a part of the solution. In times when we are witnessing the huge impact of a communicable virus on our lives, it is more important than ever to act on AMR. We are in the midst of one public health emergency, but with the emergence of untreatable, drug-resistant infections and diseases, we may soon find ourselves in another public health emergency.

This ongoing coronavirus pandemic is presenting threats that are aggravating antimicrobial resistance. For instance, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that many individuals presenting with mild disease without pneumonia are receiving antibiotics, exacerbating the risk of AMR. In addition, hospital admissions increase the risk of healthcare-associated infections and the transmission of multidrug-resistant organisms, which in turn lead to increased antimicrobial use. Another potential threat according to the WHO is the wide use of disinfectants, because low-level exposure to biocidal agents can enhance the risk of cross-resistance to antibiotics.Therefore, it is more than ever important to act against AMR. One area of success is the commitment of pharmacists around the world to this issue, and we await many more as a result of regional FIP Pharmacy AMR Roadmaps.

What are the main goals of the Commission on Antimicrobial Resistance within the next 5 years? 

FIP is continuing its leadership on AMR and building on all the work done to date. The Commission on Antimicrobial Resistance will further develop what pharmacy offers to the AMR fight and explore opportunities to increase its impact across all settings and scopes of practice. It will drive the new FIP Pharmacy AMR Roadmap, which will guide actions globally, sustaining momentum and tracking and evaluating progress of this global health priority for pharmacy. The commission will also focus on the implementation of the AMR-specific FIP Development Goal that looks at the role of pharmacists, pharmaceutical scientists, and pharmaceutical educators in reducing AMR.

How does FIP plan to synergize efforts with other organizations combating AMR? 

We know we cannot achieve our goals if we work in silos. Earlier this month, we partnered with two other organizations to host a global plenary session, entitled: “Driving AMR action in a new decade”. It was followed by a series of regional follow-up sessions, co-chaired by Regional Champions from both organisations. We have launched the previously mentioned FIP Pharmacy AMR Roadmap, which will guide actions globally, sustaining momentum and tracking and evaluating progress of this global health priority for pharmacy.

We also have a long-term collaboration with the World Health Organization on antimicrobial resistance. For example, FIP was one of the reviewers of the first Interprofessional Competency Framework on AMR Control that was published by the WHO in June 2018. Subsequently, FIP contributed to the WHO Health Workers’ Education and Training on Antimicrobial Resistance: Curricula Guide, finalized and published in 2019.

FIP AMR committee members can reach out to their national pharmacy organizations to endorse each other’s efforts. We want to have a unified front to strengthen the voice of pharmacists.

How will FIP facilitate expansion of antimicrobial stewardship efforts across the continuum of care?

FIP has highlighted the importance of antimicrobial stewardship efforts across the continuum of care in our Statement of Policy on the Control of Antimicrobial Resistance. We are promoting the recommendations from this statement of policy around the importance of stewardship and also promoting the policies of the WHO on this topic. FIP was one of the contributors shaping the celebration of the first ever World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, in collaboration with WHO. Since then, we have contributed every year.

During the last World Antimicrobial Awareness week in November 2019, FIP was invited to collaborate with the WHO on the campaign targeting healthcare professionals. FIP helped to raise awareness of AMR by encouraging the public, health workers, and policymakers to play an active role in preventing AMR and helped the WHO to develop pharmacists-specific materials. FIP will be supporting World Antimicrobial Awareness Week in 2020.

Thank you to Dr. Duggan for taking the time to answer our questions. We’ll have another Q&A coming up in support of World Antibiotic Awareness Week, in which Dr. Duggan will discuss the role of pharmacists in supporting antimicrobial stewardship programs.

Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of bioMérieux, Inc.

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