First palliative care in oncology symposium for pharmacists in Egypt

Categories: Education.

Pharmacists play a vital role in providing pharmacotherapy recommendations for palliative care patients, however very little has been done to improve their education, specifically within Egypt.

The World Health Organization defines palliative care as “an approach that seeks to improve the quality of life of patients and their families to address the problems associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other physical, psychosocial and spiritual problems.” 

In order to improve the palliative medicine education of Egyptian pharmacists, I had a vision to develop an educational symposium entitled ‘Oncology Pharmacy Network’ which was presented in December 2014 in Cairo.

My objective in creating the symposium was to share the latest updates of clinical knowledge and practice in the areas of cancer, pain management, palliative care, pharmacoeconomics, hazardous medication, genomics and supportive care in oncology settings.

The symposium’s objectives are particularly relevant at this time in Egypt, in light of the recent World Health Assembly’s legislative adoption of the palliative care resolution, which recommends necessary steps for government, health insurance companies, institutions and providers to take to ensure that patients with palliative care needs and their families have access to adequate care.

The new legislation recommends that the Ministry of Education take steps to ensure that health professionals have the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to meet the palliative care needs of patients and their loved ones.

Over 150 pharmacists from all over Egypt attended the two day symposium. The overall feedback was phenomenal, and the overarching consensus was the need to develop more educational programs such as this to improve pharmacists’ knowledge and understanding of palliative care needs specifically with cancer patients.

All participants agreed that palliative healthcare education for pharmacists is a necessary component to ensure proper management of patients who could benefit from palliative care. The workshop was made possible by support from St. John’s University and Stellar, which was supported by a grant from Novartis Pharmaceuticals.

As international organizations are promoting improved access to palliative care, it is equally important to recognize the role of the pharmacist in the palliative care setting. Pharmacotherapy is a key treatment modality for managing a multitude of palliative symptoms.  

Pharmacists are well equipped to promote a proactive review of pharmacotherapy and facilitate discussion with healthcare professionals to improve the overall quality and lives of patients.