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London 2012: a prompt for pharmacists to learn about managing athletes’ health

The Olympics may prompt an interest in pharmacists to volunteer for future sporting events. Courtney Prydderch and colleagues suggest they have to brush up their skills

By Courtney Prydderch

The Olympics may prompt an interest in pharmacists to volunteer for future sporting events. Courtney Prydderch and colleagues suggest they have to brush up their skills

The biggest sporting event on earth is coming to London and volunteer pharmacists are likely play a big part at the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. They will assess antibiotic resistance patterns from visiting nations, provide lifestyle advice to athletes and spectators and act as first responders in emergency care.

As well as fulfilling the core roles of medication supply and ensuring that medicines are suitable for use in competition, pharmacists will also use their skills to identify medicines of non-UK origin and provide prescribing advice for suitable alternatives.

Education of pharmacists volunteering for the games is central to the role undertaken. A specific training package was designed by the clinical services group in conjunction with the Centre for Pharmacy Postgraduate Education to educate volunteers on doping and anti-doping in sport, pharmacy services in sport and fitness, and medical services at international sporting events.

More recently training efforts have concentrated on pharmacists working in the vicinity of the Olympic park. The influx of tourists and athletes is most likely to increase workloads in the area.

Pharmacists are encouraged to review guidance (available on the ) on dispensing EEA and Swiss prescriptions and foreign nationals’ eligibility for NHS services, and reinforce business continuity arrangements.

Will the Olympics impact on pharmacy practice in other regions of the UK? With the expected increase in uptake of sport following the Olympics, are pharmacists in the regions adequately prepared for more sportsmen walking through their doors? Does the RPS have more responsibility to promote pharmacies as a place to receive advice about exercise and sports injury?

At the moment this does not appear to be the case, with only 2 per cent of non-professional athletes seeking advice from a pharmacist.
What we did

We conducted a study into pharmacists’ and technicians’ knowledge of, and attitudes towards, the roles pharmacists play at the Olympics. Sixty questionnaires were sent to a convenience sample of community pharmacists and technicians from north Wales and the north west of England. Twenty-eight questionnaires were returned and the written responses were analysed.

What we found

Eighty-three per cent of pharmacists knew of the existence of Olympic pharmacists, with 61 per cent attributing that knowledge to Electronicjuice. Often more than one source of information was cited with word of mouth coming a distant second (28 per cent). Although 89 per cent did not encounter athletes in their day-to-day practice, 78 per cent thought that pharmacists played an important role at the Olympics, with 72 per cent recognising that extra training “above and beyond the normal role of a community pharmacist” would be required.

Most of the pharmacists believed that education would be required on banned substances and medication suitable for sports rehabilitation.
Eighty-three per cent of pharmacists correctly recognised that the management of long-term conditions such as asthma and diabetes would have to be adjusted for athletes. 

With respect to searching for banned substances, 44 per cent of pharmacists stated that they would know where to look to find out if a substance was restricted in sport.  However when asked where they would look, most pharmacists stated that they would look in the BNF or “Google” it, suggesting that knowledge of the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited substance list was lacking.

Ninety-four per cent of pharmacists believed they would contribute uniquely to the medical team, with “advice on over-the-counter medication suitable for competition” being most frequently cited. This correlates with the most important perceived role a pharmacist could play at the Olympics: “making sure that athletes are allowed to compete”.

Discussion

Overall, pharmacists consider their role at the Olympics to be important. This is crucial, because it is likely that more will volunteer or encourage others to volunteer for future events, such as the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014. Additionally pharmacists and pharmacy technicians may consider it essential to advise their patients on sports medicines. Not all are interested and this may have contributed to a low response rate: one respondent viewed the Olympics as a “total waste of time and money”.

Pharmacist roles at the Olympics were perceived as providing expert advice on medicines, including interactions, side effects and compliance, suggesting that pharmacists focused on their current role and applied it identically to the Olympics. This is not correct, for Olympic pharmacists assume many roles as mentioned previously.

One worry was the lack of knowledge demonstrated by some pharmacists. Recognition of banned substances is poor, suggesting that promotion of the WADA prohibited list needs development. Most pharmacists’ experience with athletes was minimal; this contrasts with a French study, where pharmacists were approached regularly for banned substances and had many encounters with athletes.

During the data collection period, the CPPE online learning module “The use of drugs in sport: a healthcare professional’s perspective” was launched. This includes thorough and detailed explanations of how to assess people with sports injuries, what the pharmacist’s place in treatment is, and when to refer to another practitioner. It also provides up-to-date information on banned substances and how to recognise athletes who may be abusing illegal substances. The availability of this to all General Pharmaceutical Council registrants should enable pharmacists to update their skills as they wish.

Conclusion

The Olympic and Paralympic Games will provide both opportunities and an increased workload for pharmacists in the London region. Pharmacists in other areas of the UK, although not directly affected by the games, could use this opportunity to promote sport in their communities, and improve their skills when dealing with athletes.


Courtney Prydderch, Nazmeen Khideja and Jonathan Berry are from the School of Pharmacy at Keele University

Correspondence to: Jonathan Berry (email [email protected])

Citation: Electronicjuice URI: 11104038

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