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DRUG INFORMATION AND COVID-19: A TRAINING OPPORTUNITY IN DISGUISE

By Ahmed Abdeldayem, R.Ph., BCPS, CPHQ

In-Charge Drug and Poison Information Center
National Guard Health Affairs – Medina, Saudi ArabiaKeywords : Drug Information, COVID-19, Staff Education In August 1962, the first drug information center launched its services at the University of Kentucky Medical Center (Lexington, Kentucky, USA) with a main goal of providing drug.information to physicians, dentists, and nursing staff in addition to providing education to healthcare practitioners. Since then, the scope of pharmacy practice has expanded with a growing need for high-quality, evidence-based information to support the full spectrum of pharmaceutical care . Accordingly, drug information training has evolved to include literature review and analysis skills. During the current coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the need for reliable information has never been more important, which puts the abilities of drug information specialists into real testing. Due to the scarcity of evidence, questions about the appropriate therapy for patients with COVID-19 had to be approached with extreme caution since the proposed therapies have not been confirmed for either efficacy or safety. Treatment decisions had to be taken on a case-by-case basis to consider patient comorbidities and to avoid adverse drug reactions and potential interactions. In addition, the abilities of drug information specialists as literature review experts are  needed to support formulary management activities through reviewing and analyzing the rapidly emerging evidence. Moreover, awareness about relevant sources of regulatory and safety information was critical to support informed leadership decisions. Almost all professional and regulatory bodies have assigned dedicated resources for guiding pharmacy professionals to the recommended best practices. As professional educators, drug information specialists have faced a major challenge to fulfill their obligations due to social distancing requirements. Therefore, it became essential to utilize virtual meetings to compensate for the banned physical gatherings. Additionally, psychological impact of the crises presented another barrier for the effectiveness of continuous education activities. That is why the utilization of game-based learning, i.e. gamification, provided an acceptable alternative learning methodology. The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) launched a learning platform for training practitioners on how to treat patients with COVID-19 using simulated scenarios. Despite the perceived negative impacts of COVID-19 on life and healthcare systems, the pandemic opened the door for drug information specialists to show their qualities in several ways: •  Providing patient-specific therapeutic recommendations•  Participation in formulary management activities•  Utilization of innovative education and training modalities  For these reasons, COVID-19 has provided an ideal training opportunity for several aspects of drug information practice. Image source:  “Prescription Drugs – Prescription Bottle – Pills” by weiss_paarz_photos

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