Through a national training program for community pharmacists developed by Upjohn, a Pfizer division, and the Philippine Pharmacists Association (PPhA), pharmacists will be equipped with the essential skills to support the needs of hypertensive patients and refer them to the appropriate primary care facility. Hypertension is the sixth-leading cause of death in the country, according to 2018 data from the Philippine Statistics Authority

“This short course intends to enhance pharmacists’ competencies in supporting the physicians in managing hypertensive patients by equipping them with the essential skills to effectively detect potential hypertensive patients and refer them to the appropriate primary care facility,” explained Bryan Posadas, PPhA assistant secretary and program lead. 

Developed before the pandemic, the program was sped up after COVID-19 broke out. “We sensed the urgent need to train pharmacists to provide support for hypertensive patients,” said Mr. Posadas. “Because of the pandemic, many Filipinos may not want to visit hospitals or clinics despite possibly exhibiting hypertensive symptoms.”

Training will focus on monitoring blood pressure and medication adherence, conducting physical assessments, recommending lifestyle modifications, and providing counseling and education to patients with hypertension. The training methodology consists of hybrid interactive online lectures, case studies, case presentation, and skills development aligned with national hypertension guidelines. 

After completing the program, pharmacists will be able to screen patients for hypertension as well as deliver appropriate pharmacy interventions, particularly in the community pharmacy setting.

“Pharmacists play a crucial and important role in dispensing medicines to Filipinos and, in the new normal, they are sometimes the only healthcare professional that patients get to see,” Dr. Yolanda Robles, immediate past president of the PPhA, said. “That’s why we believe that community pharmacists can help address the need to support hypertensive patients.” 

At least 80 pharmacists will be trained per batch; a total of six batches will receive training from the fourth quarter of 2020 to 2021. Participants are from a mix of chain pharmacies and independent pharmacies in areas that have a higher incidence of hypertension.

“We ensured that this training program is targeted towards community pharmacists in key strategic locations—making Internet connectivity is less of a problem,” said Mr. Posadas. “Moreover, most pharmacies are also connected to the Internet as this is vital to their operations.”

Upjohn Philippines is providing support with the technical and logistic requirements of the program implementation. — Patricia B. Mirasol