As I write this letter, the chaos of the coronavirus pandemic is absorbing virtually all our time and attention. At this point no one knows what the true impact of the virus will be here in the United States or across the world. Certainly there are lessons to glean from those countries that saw the infection earlier than others, but incomplete scientific and public health information—along with too much misinformation—compromises our best efforts to prevent the spread, identify cases in a timely and reliable way and treat those whose health has been seriously affected.
The articles in this issue of Academic Pharmacy Now are remarkably on target with the issues COVID-19 has surfaced. Pharmacists’ accessibility, especially for rural and inner-city populations, has never been more critical but is significantly challenged even apart from the pandemic. Health outcomes are lower in “pharmacy deserts,” as Dima Qato, our current National Academy of Medicine Pharmacy Fellow, has documented in her scholarly contributions to the medical literature.
We cannot be certain that the supply of pharmaceuticals and medical devices that have become so dependent on manufacturing outside our country will meet the needs of our citizens if major disruptions in those supplies arise due to the virus. The ability for the U.S. to become more self-reliant in drug development, manufacturing and distribution is essential. The 16 universities and the pharmaceutical scientists affiliated with The National Institute for Pharmaceutical Technology & Education (NIPTE), as well as those schools and faculty leading efforts in innovation with support from the NIH Centers for Accelerated Innovations (NCAI) and the Institute’s Research Evaluation and Commercialization Hubs (REACH), are to be commended for their work. It holds promise for innovation to address not just U.S. healthcare, but the world’s needs as well.
As we navigate the weeks and months ahead with significant efforts targeted to stop the spread of COVID-19 and meet the country’s public health needs, our students, our pharmacists and our faculty will play key roles. It is a time to join forces with colleagues across the health professions in new and important ways. We look forward to documenting those contributions in a future issue of Academic Pharmacy Now.
Lucinda L. Maine, Ph.D., R.Ph.
CEO and Publisher