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Most popular opinion pieces of 2018

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Access to medicines has been a big theme for 2018 — from new legal access to medical cannabis treatment options, to fears that price hikes and Brexit are jeopardising the supply of medicines to patients who are already dependent on them. In 2019, The Pharmaceutical Journal will continue to share authoritative views on the most important issues for pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists, and, ultimately, patients. If you have an idea for a piece or would like to contribute, please get in touch with the opinion editor, Abigail James, at abigail.james@rpharms.com.

1. Ignorance is not bliss: why we need more empowered patients

In June 2018, Aseem Malhotra, cardiologist, and Sue Bailey, former president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, argued that shared decision-making should become a mandatory part of training for all healthcare professionals to improve collaboration with their patients, save the NHS billions of pounds, and ultimately improve patient outcomes.

The insight piece, which detailed the ‘Choosing Wisely’ campaign — the initiative improving conversations on medicines between patients and healthcare providers — was covered by The Guardian and The Express.

2. Why we need to legalise cannabis for medical use in the UK

January 2018 saw the Welsh Assembly vote in favour of asking the UK Government to allow medical cannabis to be prescribed and legally supplied, and Paul Flynn MP — a long-time supporter of the therapeutic properties of cannabis — explained why rescheduling the drug would decriminalise patients seeking relief.

Medical cannabis became legally available for prescription in certain cases on 1 November 2018, but with some fearing the legislation is too restrictive, time will tell whether the rescheduling will benefit patients.

3. The importance of the British Army’s slick drug-testing operations

Following a freedom-of-information investigation in August 2017, the BBC reported a high rate of positive compulsory drug test results from British Army personnel on foreign deployments. Biostatistician Sheila Bird looked at soldiers’ tactics to avoid detection of their drug use, and the army’s efficient targeted cocaine testing during military operations between 2003 and 2009.

4. ‘Patients could be seriously disadvantaged by Brexit, if we don’t get our act together’

In July 2018, we caught up with Sir Michael Rawlins, chair of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, who shared his concerns that the medicines supply chain could be severely disrupted by the UK’s exit from the European Union. Rawlins gave insulin — which cannot be transported ordinarily because it must be temperature-controlled — as an example: “… there are 3.5 million people with diabetes, some of whom rely on insulin, not least the prime minister.”

Rawlins’ comments to The Pharmaceutical Journal were covered widely by major news outlets, such as The Daily Mail, ITV News, The New York Times and The Scientist.

5. We are concerned about the shortage of buprenorphine tablets

In a letter published by The Pharmaceutical Journal, pharmacists from the mental health, drug and alcohol charity Addaction shared their concern for the sharp increase in the cost of buprenorphine — a medicine recommended for opioid misuse — amid supply shortages, and what this means for services the charity provides. Drug and alcohol treatment services prescribe only a small range of drugs, so price fluctuations hit limited budgets hard. Addaction called on the powers-that-be to consider the impact of hiked prices on charities’ ability to provide care to vulnerable members of society.

1. The cholesterol and calorie hypotheses are both dead — it is time to focus on the real culprit: insulin resistance

2. Osteoporosis treatment gap comes at a high price

3. Charcoal toothpastes: what we know so far

4. Is the future of pharmacy under threat from technology?

5. Panic over “symptomatuc refief” for throat problems

If you have an idea for a piece or would like to contribute, please get in touch with the opinion editor, Abigail James, at abigail.james@rpharms.com.

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