The future of Pharmacy (guest blog)

 

There’s been a lot of media buzz around pharmacy lately and I’ve come across a few interesting futuristic headlines, some of which have already happened in the present day, if not are at least a working progress that will become apparent in the near future! Technology has advanced, the world is becoming more digital and pharmacy is keeping up. In this blog post I have handpicked the latest news in the world of pharmacy that have caught my eye and are shaping the future of pharmacy.

Digital ingestion tracking system in medicines

The US FDA recently announced the approval of Abilify MyCite – aripiprazole tablets that contain a sensor which records the ingestion of the tablet by the patient. The sensor sends a message to a wearable patch which then transmits this to a mobile app, allowing the patient to track the ingestion on their phone. This is the first drug with a digital ingestion tracking system to be approved in the US. It’s a very interesting concept that could prove useful to patients and could pave the way for more use of technology in medicines in the future. For more information on this visit https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm584933.htm.

 

Digital therapy

The above concept leads on nicely to digital therapy which is essentially therapy content that’s delivered online or via mobile apps and it’s reinforced and supported by a trained therapist. Evidence has shown that the outcomes of these therapies are comparable to face-to-face therapy and many prefer to access therapy in this way. Therefore NHS England is working with NICE to assess up to 14 digital therapy products for use in NHS Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services by 2020. This makes me wonder, will we see prescriptions for mobile apps in the future? For more information on this visit https://www.england.nhs.uk/mental-health/adults/iapt/digital-therapy-selection/.

 

 

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI has been a hot topic in the news lately and is finding its way into the pharmaceutical industry. Put simply, AI is an area of computer science that involves the creation of machines that work and react like humans. It has already had an impact on the biopharmaceutical field in the 1990s, but more recently large pharmaceutical companies have announced collaborations with AI. It can assist in the development of better diagnostics and biomarkers in drug design of new drugs amongst other benefits. For more information check out this interesting read https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2017/08/03/artificial-intelligence-in-drug-discovery-a-bubble-or-a-revolutionary-transformation/#283b4eaf4494.

 

The Amazon ‘Pharmacy’

The recent announcement that Amazon has gained pharmacy wholesaler licenses in some US states has most certainly sent shock waves across the world of pharmacy! These licenses cover the distribution of medical equipment and devices. What is concerning for pharmacy businesses is if Amazon go on to create a mail order pharmacy, causing a storm of fierce competition. However, as you can imagine there are a lot of intricate elements to this, I’m no expert but I assume such developments won’t occur over night and will take some time, if in fact this is something on Amazon’s agenda. Pharmacies have built meaningful relationships with their patients and customers, something that Amazon lack and I expect would keep in mind before venturing into the business of pharmacy. This is just one example of a long list of advantages pre-existing pharmacies have over Amazon. If you’re interested to find out more about this check out this news report https://www.cnbc.com/2017/10/31/what-is-amazon-doing-in-health-and-the-pharmacy-industry.html.

 

Lloyds Pharmacy ‘Healthcare Centres’

The announcement that 190 Lloyds Pharmacy branches are closing down has created a dent in the morale of the community pharmacy world. Of course there must be several factors that have contributed to the closure of these branches, but one begs the question, has the cuts to funding played a significant role? However, Lloyd’s has turned this around and recently announced their plans to transform some branches into ‘Healthcare Centres’. These will provide services such as cancer treatment injections and support the early diagnosis of cancer. This is an exciting step forward that will showcase the clinical knowledge that pharmacists have to offer and could inspire other pharmacies to develop similar initiatives. For more information on this visit https://www.chemistanddruggist.co.uk/news/selected-lloydspharmacies-be-transformed-healthcare-centres.

Legislation on inadvertent dispensing errors

Parliament has approved legislation on inadvertent dispensing errors by registered pharmacy professionals, which is expected to come into effect in 2018. Currently, all dispensing errors regardless of whether or not they are inadvertent, are considered as criminal acts, hence leading to a threat of prosecution. Therefore the amendment of these current state of affairs has been greatly welcomed by pharmacy professionals, and has been a long time coming. For more information check out this article http://www.pharmaceutical-journal.com/news-and-analysis/news/pharmacy-profession-welcomes-dispensing-error-decriminalisation-legislation/20203947.article.

Restrictions on the prescribing of OTC medicines

In 2018 NHS England will release proposals to restrict prescribing of over-the-counter medicines in an effort to save a huge amount of money and free up a significant proportion of GPs’ overstretched time. In my opinion, I believe this will also encourage self-care among patients and increase utilisation of pharmacies. I’m intrigued to find out whether certain medicines will become blacklisted or if prescribers will be encouraged to restrict prescriptions for these medicines and ultimately will be left to use their professional judgement. Or maybe both of these concepts will be actioned; nonetheless, it seems that we may no longer see prescriptions for OTC medicines in the future.  If you’re interested to find out more on this check out this article which includes a list of potential conditions/products for which prescribing could be restricted http://www.pulsetoday.co.uk/clinical/prescribing/gps-to-face-ban-on-otc-prescribing-for-self-limiting-illnesses/20035763.article.

 

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