ANAFARMEX: Ensuring A Safe First-Patient ContactBy Miriam Bello | Thu, 09/24/2020 - 09:37
Q: What are the key proposals of the COVID-19 action plan created by ANAFARMEX?
A: Pharmacy reaction to the pandemic was extremely important because we are the first point of contact with the patient, especially pharmacy-adjacent doctors’ offices. In Mexico, the private pharmacy network includes more than 35,000 pharmacies, 18,000 of which have a doctor’s office. Almost all of those offices have received patients claiming to have COVID-19 symptoms. These doctors cannot make a proper diagnosis of the virus, but they can refer those patients to COVID-19 hospitals.
The Mexico City government has recently announced an online training course for general doctors at pharmacy-adjacent offices to help them implement a protocol to properly approach COVID-19 cases in the city. This effort will be conducted alongside UNAM.
Additionally, we have implemented sanitary measures at each establishment and taken on the task to spread information through posters and brochures. Constant deep cleaning is required for every space, as well as social distancing within the establishment. We have also strengthened recommendations for staff, encouraging them to constantly wash their hands and use facemasks. Some pharmacies are using an oximeter, which is a quicker way to determine if the person is presenting some serious disruption of their respiratory system, which could indicate that the person has contracted COVID-19. Doctors need to be confident when sending a patient to the hospital because otherwise, this could cause a counterproductive flow at already busy COVID-19 hospitals. Also, there cannot be any medication prescribed for a suspicious case because that could mask some symptoms.
Moreover, doctors’ offices still need to be a safe place for patients with other ailments because many of them fear going to hospital out of risk of contagion.
Q: How can pharmacies ensure enough medicine supply?
A: Contrary to common perception, we never experienced medicine shortages. There were panic purchases but mostly of protective supplies like facemasks or sanitizers. Our regular flow of patients was reduced as a result of the lockdown but as the country moves from social distancing to the traffic-light system, patient flow is slowly bouncing back.
However, many pharmacies have already established their own home-delivery options, which helped them maintain stable demand and ensure medicine supply for the patient. While there are many advantages to home delivery, this does not mean that costs will be the most favorable to the pharmacies because they will have to absorb additional charges or increase their prices. We are still studying the benefits and challenges of this model to determine what system would best fit pharmacies, the patient and the delivery service or option.
Q: What are ANAFARMEX’s concerns about the new normality?
A: The economic crisis is a general concern. While innovation in the industry is being highly encouraged, we are all facing the reality of an economic crisis and recession. The consumer now will be safeguarding economic resources more than ever, which will have an impact on the sector. We expect the impact to be positive in regard to pharmacy-adjacent offices, because consultations are offered at a very economical price, which is why we are trying to get this area properly recognized by all the different healthcare authorities. So far, we have received a positive response.
At ANAFARMEX, we are open to dialog, improvement and constant training for our doctors at pharmacy-adjacent offices. However, we do ask for proper recognition and respect from the actual policies that allow medicine access and normal purchases among the population. All pharmacies care about making healthcare more accessible and their offers are independent, with no subsidy from the government, so it is important to recognize these efforts. Furthermore, some pharmacies have not been charging for consultancies during the pandemic as a way to help the population access medical attention. Similarly, many pharmacies have offered to let doctors keep the entire payment for the consultancy, boosting their earnings.
ANAFARMEX represents close to 15,000 pharmacies across Mexico and it has over 34 years of experience. It specializes in supporting small and medium pharmacies but it also represents big pharmacy chains