With the 21st British Oncology Pharmacy Association (BOPA) annual conference kicking off in Birmingham today, our thoughts turn to pharmacists and their role in the NHS. In fact, pharmacists are the often unseen cogs behind the innermost workings of the NHS, and absolutely crucial for the smooth-running of the machine. They are also a key stakeholder to ensure timely and safe access to therapies. So when should you consider engaging with pharmacy upon launching of a product? Here we discuss a few thoughts about engaging specifically with hospital pharmacists.
Pharmacy need to know all the information regarding a new therapy – not only the fundamentals such as the eligible patient cohort, clinical data, any drug-to-drug interactions, but also the logistics – how to reconstitute, stability data and supply route. Pharmacy needs all this detail for their electronic stock control system upon launch in order to dispense the therapy. Any delays in providing this information in a clear and concise format could impact patient access. Procurement pharmacists will also need to know the pricing structure for both NHS and private patients, including any changes in funding processes associated with drugs switching from early access to medicines schemes (EAMS) or reimbursement via the Cancer Drug Fund (CDF). Supporting materials such as Pharmacy Information Packs or Formulary Packs provided as near to marketing authorisation as possible are highly useful for the pharmacy team. In addition, although specialist pharmacists will monitor health technology appraisal (HTA)/CDF recommendations for new products, mailers and regular communications to keep them informed of where a new innovation is in the HTA process will help to keep them updated on progress and allow them to prepare their systems and Drugs and Therapeutic Committee (DTC) review if necessary.
Once a product has been launched and is reimbursed the pharmacist role does not stop there. The pharmacist will screen products prior to and following reconstitution, and the medicine will not be released to the patient until the pharmacist is happy. Pharmacists in the aseptic unit require the same detailed drug information as those in the procurement team, and require Word/PDF documents that can be easily lifted into their own templates. Stability of therapies is an important consideration for pharmacy, particularly with high-cost drugs that often have a short shelf life once reconstituted. These therapies will all be reconstituted on the day of the patient appointment which can cause pressure and bottlenecks in pharmacies. We hope all the BOPA attendees enjoy the wealth of informative discussions and posters this weekend! If you would like to discuss how you can support these vital stakeholders in their role please email firstname.lastname@example.org.