The Scottish Pharmacy Alliance convenes to reduce drug deaths

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University of Stirling Substance Use expert Professor Catriona Matheson is launching a new partnership with the pharmacy profession to help drive down drug deaths.

Professor Matheson, former Chair of the Scottish Drugs Deaths Taskforce, has joined forces with Jonathan Laird, Managing Director of the trade magazine Pharmacy in Practice, to convene the inaugural Scottish Pharmacy Alliance meeting.

The aim of this initiative is to bring together stakeholders in the pharmacy profession across Scotland to explore how to drive change and improve health with the ultimate objective of reducing deaths. The event will bring together topic specialists, practising pharmacists and leaders from across the pharmacy profession.

As with many other sectors, community pharmacy has played a crucial role over many years in delivering care to people who use drugs and are afflicted by all the challenges that accompany addiction to substances not least during the recent pandemic.

However, with appropriate support and funding, the Alliance hopes to explore if there is more that can be done, by exploring potential new services and assessing all aspects of how current services and care are delivered. The group will also focus on supporting the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Strategy to Reduce Drug-Related Deaths and other strategy documents, with a firm focus on working towards the operationalisation of some of the recommendations by the pharmacy profession.

Professor Matheson said: "My work on the Drug Death Taskforce has encouraged me to see that there is genuine commitment to do the right thing from those working at the coalface, as pharmacy staff do.  Pharmacists understand the importance of using an evidence-based approach because of their scientific training so they are an invaluable asset in the drive to reduce drug harm. 

“If the pharmacy profession can come together and demonstrate the leadership required, hopefully other groups can do the same.”

Managing Director of Pharmacy in Practice, Johnathan Laird, said: "For decades pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacy teams across Scotland have cared deeply for the most vulnerable victims of harmful substance use. Many of us will have first-hand experience and understanding of the complex consequences on individuals and families of harmful drug use. Indeed, there is scarcely a pharmacy in the land that does not support people who struggle with substance use in a range of forms.  

"The calibre of professionals from across multiple sectors of Scottish pharmacy who have agreed to join us for our inaugural Scottish Pharmacy Alliance meeting gives me great hope that we can reach across political boundaries and find consensus on how the pharmacy profession can come together to tackle this complex problem."

To demonstrate commitment to the initiative, Pharmacy in Practice in partnership with Wylie & Bissett, is supporting the event by providing the venue for the inaugural and future meetings of the group. The organisers are giving their time for free and there is no other commercial interest.

The first meeting of the Scottish Pharmacy Alliance will take place on Monday, 16 May. Minutes of the meeting and a consensus statement will be published shortly afterwards.