Last Thursday (30 June), the Federal Council of Pharmacy approved a resolution that regulates telepharmacy in Brazil. The new regulation, soon to be published in the Brazilian Official Gazette, has clinical pharmacy as its core, meaning 'the pharmacy area focused on the science and practice of the rational use of medicines, in which pharmacists provide patient care, in order to optimize pharmacotherapy, promote health and well-being and prevent disease'.
Telepharmacy will work as a useful tech tool, allowing the pharmacist to provide guidance, to carry out pharmacotherapeutic follow-ups and also to alert about the possible need for medical care.
To illustrate, the new regulation will allow pharmacists to use technology to deliver services to their patients, covering the provision of offsite pharmaceutical care and other healthcare services through video calls, telephone or chat, so that patients can get answers to their questions about pharmacotherapy and adverse drug reactions easily. In addition, given the content of this new resolution, several new activities will be enabled in an easy, quick and safe way, such as (i) the issuance of clinical reports, (ii) expert assessments based on tests carried out in the pharmacy, in addition to (iii) greater interaction between patients, doctors and pharmacists.
Exceptions are only made to acts related to the technical obligations of the pharmacist for the establishment of their job position (e.g. drug dispensing service). Face-to-face interaction is still needed for this line of work.
Despite the regulations being inspired by the telepharmacy initiatives around the world, it is worth noting that this new resolution trails the current major regulatory trend in Brazil around telehealth – as can be seen from the recent regulations on telemedicine and telenursing, which have become increasingly more popular since the Covid pandemic and advacements in technology.
To illustrate the existing telepharmacy initiatives around the world that have inspired the Brazilian regulation, we can mention the North American pharmaceutical chain called CVS, which provides to its customers a medical alert system activated by voice in order to enable the remote monitoring of elderly patients for 24/7. Moreover, the company also implemented a free application that provides alerts for falls and other emergencies, in addition to monitoring movements, temperature and air quality indexes inside the residence.
According to the CFF, a federal law on the subject will not be necessary, so pharmacies and drugstores with clinical care rooms and qualified professionals will be able to incorporate telepharmacy into their routine right away.
Of course, there are still some limitations that have not been resolved (for example, legal implications and conflict of interest between the pharmaceutical and medical professions), which make it difficult to spread the telepharmacy and telemedicine as inseparable pairs across the country. Nowadays, for example, much is said about the OTC commercialization in supermarkets and the provision of primary care in pharmaceutical premises, but it's important to note that these topics are still accompanied by complex and controversial issues. More solid data on the effectiveness of these digital health care attention areas, together with a critical assessment of their limits, can raise awareness of their potential and contribute to a greater diffusion of services in the interest of communities and citizens. There is a very heated discussion surrounding these matters.
The fact is that, as has been discussed in our analysis, significant steps have been taken in the last few months to define clearer criteria for the still early-stage idea of digital health in the country – and most of those are already strongly accepted by many of the market players. All stakeholders have the primary objective of facilitating the continuity and development of the entire supply chain of products and services associated with digital therapeutics, as well as the ability to enter and expand upon the domestic market. This growth inevitably drives healthcare consumerism, so the pursuit of disruptive and revenue-generating opportunities should be – and, for some, has already been – a point of great attention.
This is indeed one of the greatest investment hubs, especially in this new era of digitalization and data monetization – even more in Latin America.