Pharmacists seek greater healthcare role

MILLIONS of euro of taxpayers’ money could be saved if pharmacists were allowed play a greater role in preventative care and the management of chronic diseases such as diabetes or heart disease, the Irish Pharmaceutical Union (IPU) has claimed.

IPU president Michael Guckian said pharmacists were not being utilised to their full potential within the healthcare system.

“Pharmacists have the experience and expert knowledge of speciality medications to facilitate preventative care and treat chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma and cardiovascular disease,” he told IPU members who attended a conference in Dublin yesterday.

“The problem is the Government continues to ignore this fact and patients are losing out on accessible professional treatment because of this lack of action,” he said.

“There are an awful lot of people out there who don’t know they have diabetes and if we can screen them and point them in the right direction, an awful lot more people would be treated.”

The IPU, the representative body of 1,600 pharmacists across the country, has again urged Health Minister Mary Harney to follow the lead from other jurisdictions and recognise the vital role pharmacists can play in the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases.

Prof John Nolan, a consultant in endocrinology and metabolism, said the cost of treating Type 2 Diabetes, the most common form of diabetes in Ireland, at €580 million annually, equated to more than 6% of total healthcare expenditure.

Prof Nolan said that the cost of treating the disease could be reduced through investment by Government in the prevention of diabetes and diabetes-related complications.

President of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, Hemant Patel, spoke of the partnership between pharmacists and the Department of Health in Britain in treating people with long-term medical conditions.

He pointed out that the average community pharmacy in Britain served around 450 people with asthma, 122 people with angina, 24 people following a heart attack and 156 people with diabetes.

Meanwhile, pharmacy owners will today be issued with guidelines by gardaí on how to prevent robberies and secure their premises.

The safety guidelines will be launched by Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy in a bid to thwart the 125 robberies on pharmacies that take place annually.

Representatives of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, the regulatory body for pharmacies, will also be handed a checklist for securing shops.

Last year, pharmacists were threatened by thieves using syringes and machetes and one incident saw a security guard stabbed.

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