Pharmacists, drug sellers, and pharmacy associations: Key players in the fight against TB

Reposted from MSH at the Union World Conference on Lung Health 2013.

While the National Tuberculosis Programs (NTP) of most countries offer free diagnosis and treatment for tuberculosis (TB), many people worldwide first seek care from other providers, such as physicians in the private sector, pharmacists, or informal drug sellers. Partnerships between NTPs and providers in the private sector have long been touted by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a way to increase patient access to timely diagnosis and quality treatment regimens; however, pharmacists and pharmacy associations have only recently been recognized as key players in these partnerships.

On Saturday, November 2 the USAID-funded Systems for Improved Access to Pharmaceuticals and Services (SIAPS) program organized a symposium on the involvement of private pharmacists in TB, titled “Engaging pharmacists for TB control: rhetoric or reality?”

The symposium featured country experiences from Tanzania, Pakistan, and India, all of whom have done innovative work building collaborations between private sector pharmacies and the NTP.

The symposium highlighted that while pilot projects have shown the value of engaging pharmacists, additional data is needed about the specific costs and returns that countries can expect when engaging pharmacists, as well as the incentives that are needed to motivate all stakeholders. PPM expert Mukund Uplekar facilitated an interactive session and lively discussion that highlighted both the importance of pharmacists in TB as well as the need to understand the local health system when designing interventions.

Emily Delmotte (@edelmott) is a technical associate in the Center for Pharmaceutical Management at MSH.