Mark Pugh of Avondale Pharmaceuticals. In the following article Mark Pugh discusses how ethics are taught and integrated into pharmacy education.
As a field of medicine, Mark Pugh of Avondale Pharmaceuticals explains that pharmacy schools should instill in students a respect for the dignity of the individual, a professional attitude that emphasizes the primacy of patient welfare, the social responsibility of the profession, and a sensitivity to the ethical dimensions of pharmacy practice. These ethical considerations enter into daily practice, so students must be prepared to deal with a variety of situations.
Mark Pugh of Avondale Pharmaceuticals reports that pharmacy schools help train future pharmacists to act with proper conduct while dispensing prescription medications, conducting clinical trials, and providing care to the public. Mark Pugh takes a closer look at how a pharmacy education provides students with the opportunity to examine ethical issues and develop the skills necessary for resolving such problems.
Why Ethics and Medicine Go Hand-in-Hand
Mark Pugh of Avondale Pharmaceuticals notes that medical professionals are required to follow a strict code of ethics established over many centuries. These ethics help to ensure that patients receive the best possible care and treatment. The medical code of ethics is based on several principles, including:
- Beneficence – The duty of medical professionals to do good and to promote the well-being of their patients.
- Nonmaleficence – The duty to do no harm.
Autonomy – The duty to allow patients the right to make decisions about their own care.
- Justice – The duty to treat all patients fairly and equitably, regardless of who they may be.
These principles provide medical workers with a framework for how to behave on the job and in general life. Mark Pugh of Avondale Pharmaceuticals says these ethics ensure that patients are treated fairly and with respect, while also providing a clear set of guidelines for how doctors should act in difficult situations.
Common Ethical Issues Pharmacists Face
Beyond acting as a guide for how pharmacists should treat patients, the ethics taught by a pharmacy education also help inform the way that pharmacists handle ethical dilemmas. Some common ethical issues a pharmacist will face include:
- Patient confidentiality
- The provision of medications to underserved and underprivileged populations
- Dispensing control substances to patients who may abuse them
- Accepting or rejecting patients from clinical trials
- Marketing pharmaceuticals with knowledge of possible side effects
Although these might not be everyday issues, they’re certainly ethical dilemmas most pharmacists will encounter at some point in their careers. For this reason, Mark Pugh of Avondale Pharmaceuticals says it’s vital that pharmacy schools instill strong ethics into all of their graduates.
How Pharmacy Schools Teach Ethics
Currently, pharmacy schools in the United States are not required to provide courses in ethics. Many programs lack courses entirely, leaving students to navigate the ethical requirements of their own careers. A study published by the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education found that the field, on the whole, lacked comprehensive ethical education.
According to their findings, Mark Pugh of Avondale Pharmaceuticals reports that although the AACP Health Care Ethics Special Interest Group currently provides educators with 15 different syllabi to teach pharmaceutical ethics, there is an overwhelming lack of faculty preparation and many educators have not undergone training themselves. Instead, the pharmaceutical field has long adhered to a general code of honor, rather than clearly taught values.
This isn’t to say that all pharmacists work without an ethical education, of course. Mark Pugh of Avondale Pharmaceuticals explains that those who conduct clinical research are currently required by federal law to undergo ethical training, under strict guidelines set by the Belmont Report. The report published in 1979 set forth the first clearly delineated standards meant to protect research participants. Since then, it’s been modified and adapted to deal with new ethical dilemmas.
How Are Pharmaceutical Ethics Improving?
After the height of the opioid pandemic, the general public and pharmacists alike have taken a long look at what the industry can do better. Today, major publications, such as the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education and the Journal of Advances in Medical Education & Professionalism have both focused their research on how to improve ethical training for upcoming pharmacists.
Mark Pugh of Avondale Pharmaceuticals says both journals highlight a need for more stringent standards, better training courses, and more in-depth testing measures. Yet, as more and more educators within the medical field recognize the lack of available resources, it’s quickly pushing major institutions to fix the problem and provide further funding for standardized pharmaceutical training.
As of 2021, the Eshelman School of Pharmacy has introduced a new undergraduate ethics course directly aimed at teaching prospective pharmacists how to handle social issues. They join the ranks of other schools that have taken similar steps says Mark Pugh.
Mark Pugh of Avondale Pharmaceuticals explains that pharmacy schools play a major role in shaping the ways that pharmacists interact with patients and handle ethical dilemmas. For this reason, pharmacy education should instill in their students a rigid set of ethical guidelines. Although the field may lack standardization, there is a current shift towards more rigorous ethical training throughout the United States.