The central role of the hospital pharmacist – lessons from EAHP 2019

Written by Jenny Feehan on Thursday 11th April 2019

The 24th Congress of the European Association of Hospital Pharmacists (EAHP) was held in Barcelona on 27–29 March. The theme of the event was ‘Personalised Hospital Pharmacy – meeting the needs of every patient’. Drawing myself away from the Barcelona sights, I attended a series of presentations, workshops and symposia to discover the hot topics in hospital pharmacy.

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The omics approach to personalised medicine

‘Omics’ (transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics and lipidomics) were the topic of conversation in the first keynote session. Since the publication of the full human genome sequence in 2003, these technologies have led to a wealth of information about health and diseases and the discovery of drug targets. Omic technologies can also be used as tools to refine and individualise treatments to the specific needs of a patient. In addition, surveillance sequencing work has been integrated into both public health and clinical practice. Prof Gerhard Ecker, from the Pharmacoinformatics Research Group of the University of Vienna, highlighted that hospital pharmacists need to have a thorough understanding of these technologies and how they may influence medicine and pharmacy in the future.

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Keeping a close eye: pharmacists and pharmacovigilance

The hospital pharmacist has a crucial role in upholding the safe and effective use of drugs. This was certainly reflected at EAHP 2019, with a variety of sessions, posters and workshops discussing topics such as screening and monitoring systems, drug–drug interactions, and adherence. In an award-nominated oral presentation entitled ‘A systematic review of pharmacist input in the screening, management and prevention of metabolic syndrome’, Aladawi et al shared that, compared with usual care, the integration of pharmacists within an interdisciplinary team led to improved outcomes for patients with metabolic syndrome. Looking further into how to optimise pharmacovigilance systems in a seminar entitled “Social media and pharmacovigilance” pharmacovigilance expert, Anne-Marie de Ferran, and Professor Ugo Moretti, described how social listening (monitoring of social media platforms) is being assessed for its value in pharmacovigilance. As patients are often more likely to turn to the internet to explore or discuss their adverse events than to report them through regular pharmacovigilance channels, social listening has the potential to identify adverse events that would otherwise be unrecorded.

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Sustainable healthcare: time to turn to biosimilars

Although the topic of biosimilars is a regular fixture at medical congresses, it rarely takes centre stage. However, given the hospital pharmacist’s increasingly difficult role in managing budgets, it is not surprising that the cost-effective benefits of biosimilars and best practices on their implementation were key themes at EAHP 2019. Although vast amounts of data have provided reassurance of the similar efficacy and safety of biosimilars to their originator counterparts, hurdles still exist for biosimilar use. Challenges in this area include the complexity of procurement and tender procedures, and healthcare professional and patient education to tackle misconceptions. Best practices in biosimilar implementation from the UK, Germany and Denmark were presented. A common theme was the central role of hospital pharmacists in managing and driving a switch strategy. The value of biosimilar uptake was clear to see: the significant cost-savings of biosimilars were highlighted throughout presentations. It has been reported that switching to biosimilars saved the UK National Health Service around £100 million in 2018. These cost savings can be reinvested into the healthcare system, for example, in the form of more healthcare professionals, ultimately improving patient care and outcomes.

EAHP 2019 allowed delegates to share best practices in hospital pharmacies and explore novel ideas on how to optimise healthcare systems with their colleagues from across Europe. It also highlighted to me the vital role of hospital pharmacists in improving patient outcomes.

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