Changing behaviours

Pharmacy is usually the first place people go for help when they have a cold, sore throat, or other viral symptoms, therefore the pharmacy team has a unique opportunity to educate customers and treat patients with effective therapies, whether they are prescription or non-prescription, said Dr Doug Burgoyne, Principal at Cooperative Benefits Group LLC, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.

"As you think about your practice as you return home, please think about how you can influence your patients to use non-prescription, non-antibiotic alternatives for cold and flu, scratchy throat and other viral symptoms"

Evidence to support this comes from a recent survey that asked people from over 13 different countries where they go for advice on their sore throat. One third (33%) of the respondents consulted with their pharmacist, while 9% consulted a pharmacy assistant or a pharmacy technician. This puts the pharmacy team ahead of the physician, ahead of friends and family, and even online searches for symptoms.

The same research revealed that not only do people come and ask pharmacists for guidance related to sore throat, but they also trust them. Most of the respondents (76%) valued the advice from a pharmacist or pharmacy assistant, while 72% said they believed that the pharmacist can advise whether they need to go the doctor. This data shows that pharmacists are in really quite a unique position at the forefront of the healthcare field, where patients will come for advice and will trust the information they receive.

With their capability, opportunity and motivation, community pharmacists are perfectly placed as antibiotic stewards to lead the quest to contain the threat of AMR. With appropriate training and use of available resources, the whole pharmacy team can play an active role, said Dr Burgoyne. It is important that community pharmacists help patients understand when antibiotics are required and reduce the use of antibiotics available over the counter. By treating the symptoms, patients will feel better and be able to go back to work, or school, and may also save money, as non-prescription products are often much less expensive than prescription antibiotics, said Dr Burgoyne.