Pharmacists' role to be expanded as population ages: Minister

Pharmacists' role to be expanded as population ages: Minister
Pharmacy technicians picking up baskets containing medication for patients. With Singapore facing a higher prevalence of chronic diseases and an increasingly older population, the role of pharmacists will have to be "expanded", Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said

With Singapore facing a higher prevalence of chronic diseases and an increasingly older population, the role of pharmacists will have to be "expanded", Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said yesterday.

Addressing 211 new pharmacists who qualified as professionals last night, he said: "The role of pharmacists will need to be expanded in the hospitals, polyclinics, and in the community setting.

"Community pharmacists have to work with medical practitioners and other healthcare providers to take care of patients with chronic diseases, optimising medication therapy management and achieving good patient outcomes."

Singapore has more than 2,500 pharmacists and around a fifth work in the community, such as at retail pharmacies.

As "medication experts", he said, they can be effective advocates of healthy living and disease prevention.

Mr Gan told The Straits Times: "With the ageing population and increasing prevalence of chronic diseases, we need to do more to help our public and patients stay as healthy as possible and avoid needless hospital admissions."

Many older patients with several problems might see different doctors. This could result in duplication of medicines or even medicines that might affect the efficacy of other drugs.

Pharmacists can help review their medication to ensure that it is all necessary and there is no interaction or overlap.

He said "pharmacists-run ambulatory clinics" can educate patients and ensure better outcomes from safe and proper use of medications.

Patients with various problems may have more than a dozen pills they need to take at different times of the day. Some, especially older patients living alone, may have difficulty remembering what to take and when.

Mr Gan added that pharmacists in team-based community outreach programmes visit patients at home to teach them how to manage their various medicines and ensure that they take them as prescribed, thus preventing the need for them to be hospitalised for medication-related problems.

Last night, the Singapore Pharmacy Council, a statutory board under the Health Ministry, also launched a new section on advertising in its ethical code, detailing what pharmacists can or cannot do.

Mr Gan said: "I applaud SPC for continually updating the code to uphold the highest professional values and I encourage all pharmacists, including our newly registered pharmacists, to abide by the Code of Ethics."

salma@sph.com.sg

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AVOIDING ADMISSIONS

With the ageing population and increasing prevalence of chronic diseases, we need to do more to help our public and patients stay as healthy as possible and avoid needless hospital admissions.

- Health Minister Gan Kim Yong


This article was first published on May 7, 2015.
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