ISLAMABAD             -                   Addressing the provincial governments, public and private hospitals and health institutions, The Drug Regulations Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) on Friday issued an advisory for the protection of the pharmacists against COVID-19. According to Director Division of Pharmacy Services, DRAP Dr Abdur Rashid, the purpose of this advisory was to provide necessary guidance to the institutions concerned in order to protect the pharmacists from the pandemic. He said that pharmacists and their teams were key partners in this national health crisis. “Pharmacists have a major role to play in the counseling of patients, their safety, reporting on adverse drug reactions, manufacturing, distribution, storage, and the provision of therapeutic goods,” he said, and added, “Through this advisory, DRAP intended that all the stakeholders must recognise pharmacists as an integral part of their healthcare team and support them in the times of COVID-19 pandemic.” He said that the valuable services, which the pharmacists and their teams provided to communities, and their important contribution to easing the enormous strain being placed on our country’s health system during this pandemic, is now clearer than ever. Dr Abdul Rashid said that pharmacists across country were making sure that patients, particularly the vulnerable ones, received their medicines despite the quarantines and lockdowns. “They are continuing to ensure the provision of a robust medical products supply chain, and in some cases compounding hand sanitizers themselves to relieve shortages,” he said. Dr Abdul Rashid said in its advisory, the Division of Pharmacy Services, DRAP had advised all the stakeholders to take measures to support pharmacists and their teams in order to ensure the continuity of pharmaceutical care to people across the country, so that the pharmacists could play an even greater part in the fight against COVID-19. “Pharmacists and their teams must be recognised as key workers by fully including them in emergency protocols, affording them freedom of movement during the lockdowns,” he asserted. He stressed that it must be ensured that pharmacists and their teams had access to appropriate protective equipment, according to the guidelines of International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP), the Hague, Netherlands and in compliance with the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommendations. The DRAP official called for identifying those medicines whose shortage was expected and putting in place mitigation plans, such as authorizing the pharmacists to conduct therapeutic substitution through verbal, telephonic or written consultation with the prescribers.