The current spike in COVID cases and rising numbers of viral respiratory illnesses is a serious reminder that the next widespread contagion is plausible. Healthcare systems and individuals alike are vulnerable to past experienced devastation if appropriate measures of preparedness are not implemented. Such is the theme of the 5th International Pharmaceutical Research Conference (5th IPRC), “Healthcare Sustainability: Addressing the Gaps of the Post-Pandemic Era”, which was recently organised by the Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Cyberjaya.
Sustainability, a concept originally rooted in concerns about environmental resources, has now transcended into other multidimensional disciplines. However, the underlying themes across all disciplines remain the same - resilience, continuity, and interconnectedness. Sustainability in healthcare is thus important in creating and maintaining a resilient healthcare system that emphasises efficiency and long-term cost-effectiveness. Delivering the keynote address at the 5th IPRC, Emeritus Professor Tan Sri Dato’ Dzulkifli Abdul Razak urged on investing in technologies that drive the affordability of vaccines and medications to ensure that healthcare services are accessible and affordable for all. “By promoting a balance between economic viability and public health, sustainable healthcare systems can withstand economic challenges without compromising quality and equity of care to all patients”. Associate Professor Dr. Shairyzah Ahmad Hisham, Deputy Dean of the Faculty and Chairperson of the 5th IPRC, spoke on the timeliness of an academic conference addressing the sustainability of the healthcare system, especially post-pandemic. “Sustainability needs to be instilled in pharmacy, both in the profession and the pharmacy education system”. For instance, pharmacy curriculums are encouraged to adopt topics on sustainable pharmacy practices, such as eco-friendly medication packaging and energy-efficient pharmaceutical operations. Key pharmaceutical industry players must explore locally and sustainably sourced ingredients as measures to reduce fiscal costs and carbon footprints of pharmaceutical products.
Adopting sustainable healthcare practices is essential for ensuring the long-term well-being of the ageing population. A part of a quality and sustainable healthcare system is the promotion of healthy ageing and the effective management of chronic medical conditions for older individuals. Associate Professor Dr. Liew Kai Bin, the Head of the Centre of Pharmaceutical Innovation, Commercialisation and Services, spoke on sustainable solutions in medication formulation technology. “Technology that champions patient’s convenience in adhering to treatment is patient friendly dosage forms. Orally disintegrating tablets and films are newer-generation dosage forms that cater to this need and improve patient compliance. In short, with enhanced patient compliance, therapeutic outcomes are achieved easily. This will ensure a more cost-effective and sustainable health care system”.
Some efforts in sustainable practices may traverse the usual scopes of practice. Plenary speaker Dr. Pratchaya Tipduangta, from Chiang Mai University, a qualified pharmacist by training, recounted deviating from the usual formulation of medications in the lab to formulation of pastille-type nutrition supplements to combat child micronutrient deficiencies in the community. “There is currently an unfulfilled need for tailored dosage forms in food supplements to address deficiencies in the Thai children’s diet. Using locally sourced ingredients, we invited interested community members to learn to prepare these jelly gummies as a more nutritious snack substitution for children in their care”. The 5th IPRC hosted pharmacy delegates from schools of pharmacy all around Malaysia, and delegates from Japan, Thailand, and Indonesia. The conference received praise for bringing together delegates to discuss efforts towards sustainable and resilient healthcare systems locally and between countries.
This event contributes to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: