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by Laura Wilson
07 July 2021
Associate feature: Pharmacy's role in reducing drug deaths and preventing harm

There are calls for pharmacists to have a bigger role in tackling drug deaths Image: Shutterstock

Associate feature: Pharmacy's role in reducing drug deaths and preventing harm

Pharmacists, and pharmacy teams, already play a big role in supporting and providing treatment to people who use drugs, as well as offering harm reduction services and advice.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society wants to build on this fantastic work by enabling pharmacy teams to do even more to reduce harm from drugs.

Our report, Pharmacy’s Role in Reducing Harm and Preventing Drug Deaths, makes 14 recommendations based on engagement with the pharmacy profession and stakeholders.

One of the most pressing recommendations is that all pharmacists should have access to shared patient records and clear communication pathways with other health care professionals involved in the care of people who use drugs.

This could make a marked improvement to the support pharmacists could offer.

We also recommend that pharmacists could undertake polypharmacy reviews and health checks to improve health and wellbeing for people who use drugs.

Scotland has an ageing drug-using population with the average age of those having a drug-related death rising from 30 in 2000 to 42 in 2019.

Many have complex additional health problems. Pharmacists are ideally placed to directly target these patients, who are most at risk of health harms but least likely to engage. This type of outreach has been shown to increase access for patients who would otherwise remain forgotten.

Pharmacy’s accessibility should also be used to increase access to naloxone and to widen the location options for treatment.

It is clear that pharmacy teams have the opportunity, with the right support, to do even more to reduce harm from drugs.

But this will require significant resource, expertise and finance. We are calling on Scottish Government, pharmacy organisations, contractors and teams to work together to enable pharmacy to do more by implementing and resourcing our recommendations to reduce harm and prevent drug deaths.

Laura Wilson is policy and practice lead for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in Scotland

This article is sponsored by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society

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Health

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