by Riel Anthony T. Oli, RPh, MSPharm, CBO
Pharmacy is a field in the allied health sciences that integrates chemical principles in biological systems. Pharmacists are known to be ‘drug experts’ for their vast knowledge on medicines that enables them to compound medications and to ensure efficacy of these substances to patients. Over the years, the practice of pharmacy in the country has slowly geared from compounding and dispensing of medication to clinical pharmacy practice.
Hospital pharmacists prepare medications as needed by the in-patients. Sometimes, pre-manufactured drugs are not suited for a specific patient, thus hospital pharmacists extemporaneously compound these medications for their use. These medications may include, but not limited to, ointments, creams, gels, suppositories, trochees, chartula, syrups, suspensions, eye and ear drops, and oral solutions. They also prepare injectable fluids, cancer medicines, and radioactive medicines prior to administration to patients. Moreover, they also ensure proper storage, handling, dispensing, administration, and disposal of biological medicines such as vaccines, toxins, toxoids, and sera.
Clinical pharmacists, however, ensure optimal pharmacotherapeutic outcomes for patients by working with the other members of the healthcare team. They review patient charts and provide necessary drug information to both healthcare professionals and patients.
Medicines are helpful in the restoration of health and/or maintaining quality of life. However, when medicines are prepared and used inappropriately, these substances can cause harm. Unsanitary preparation of drug products can result to contamination that may lead to infections. Improper storage and handling of medicines can render these substances ineffective which will cause damage rather than benefits. Wrong route of administration may also render the drug useless. And, improper disposal of drug products can endanger the society and the environment.
Currently, there are only two pharmacists in the country who are certified biosafety officers (CBOs) granted by the Philippine Advanced Biosafety Officers Training with oversight by the U.S. Department of State – Biosecurity Engagement Program. Though efforts have been made to increase awareness in biosafety in the field of pharmacy, it has only been limited to the academe where the said CBOs are practicing. Although there is a move for advocacy to increase consciousness, it is still not enough because the participants are mostly students who will spend years before they will practice in the field.
Through the recommendation of Dr. Miguel Martin Moreno, the founding president of the Biorisk Association of the Philippines, Inc. (BRAP), biosafety was included as one of the topics in the recently concluded Philippine Society of Hospital Pharmacists’ (PSHP) 56th Anniversary and National Convention last February 28–March 3, 2018. The convention was held in CAP Convention Center in Camp John Hay, Baguio City, and was attended by more than a thousand hospital and clinical pharmacists from different institutions in the country.
As a pharmacist, this opportunity was a chance to impart my knowledge on biosafety to my colleagues. It was a marvelous opportunity that permitted me to discuss the rationale of the need for pharmacists to be also involved in identifying and reducing biohazards and threats. Mitigation measures such as elimination and substitution, engineering controls, and personal protective equipment that are directly concerned with their current practice were emphasized. Participants were also given examples of actual events in which the response could have improved if the pharmacist’s intervention was guided by biosafety principles.
The response of the organizers and the participants was overwhelming. Because of this session, my colleagues are now aware of the significance of biosafety in their field and are interested for more events that can enhance their knowledge and skills in the said endeavor. I am truly grateful for BRAP for this wonderful chance that may open more doors for pharmacists and other professionals to protect the people and the environment from ‘bad bugs’. I heard BRAP is moving to open its July convention to Pharmacists.
Again, I would like to express my gratitude to BRAP founding president Dr. Martin Moreno, MD, CBP, CIFBA, PSHP President Ms. Hazel Faye R. Docuyanan, RPh, MS, and the Overall Convention Chair Ms. Rosalyn L. Pangan, RPh, MBAH.
* Prof. Riel Anthony T. Oli is a Faculty member of the College of Pharmacy, a Member of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee and OBE Core Group of Adamson University and a Member of Good Standing of BRAP (the BioRisk Association of the Philippines, Inc.)