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New gift to help pharmacists build integrity in their practice

26 September 2016
Pharmacists band together to support research integrity

On what basis is pharmacy policy made, and is it always in the best interest of health consumers?

A generous $140,000 gift from a group of prominent Australian pharmacy owners will help University of Sydney researchers pursue this important question.

The gift establishes a new program called the 'Scholarship in community pharmacy research', which initiates research and supports a PhD student based in the University's Charles Perkins Centre. The student will critically examine how pharmacy policy is made and whether current and proposed laws are effective in supporting the role of pharmacists as public health professionals.

Led by pharmacy owner and business expert Peter Feros, the gift aims to foster sector-wide reform by improving the evidence base informing community pharmacy.

"I've been very impressed with the systematic approach to research that is being done by the Charles Perkins Centre, and how they ensure that all data collected is analysed with integrity," said Mr Feros (BPharm '66).

"Such a methodical approach has not been taken over the past three decades in community pharmacy, which has produced inappropriate policy to the detriment of the health and wellbeing of Australians. This program will correct the balance of pharmacy research to ensure that policy decisions are driven by analysis, not ideology, while restoring integrity and retaining talent within the pharmacy profession more broadly."

Bringing evidence into pharmacy policy 

The new research program builds upon work by Professor Lisa Bero from the Charles Perkins Centre and Faculty of Pharmacy, a world-renowned specialist in evidence-based health care research and its use in health policy.

Professor Bero's previous studies into public health regulations and law in the United States has brought about widespread change to the industry, including in her ground-breaking discovery of selective reporting of data for drugs approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2008. Her findings contributed to open access data reforms such as access to information from drug regulatory agencies and improved reporting requirements for clinical trials via the clinicaltrials.gov registry.

Her research also exposed how special interest groups have generated and used evidence to influence public health policy, including how the tobacco industry influenced policy on indoor air regulation.

In a similar vein and under Professor Bero's supervision, the PhD scholarship recipient will analyse media discourse and other professional publications and legal documents to assess the use of evidence used in the creation of pharmacy policy.

Young researchers, working in a truly multidisciplinary environment, are the key to solving complex public health problems facing us today and in the future.
Professor Lisa Bero

"Young researchers, working in a truly multidisciplinary environment, are the key to solving complex public health problems facing us today and in the future," said Professor Bero, Chair of Medicines Use and Health Outcomes and leader of the 'Bias and Research Integrity' and 'Evidence Synthesis' nodes at the Charles Perkins Centre.

"This research program is crucial in order to help create transparency of decisions made in the development of pharmacy practice policy. The more we know about how evidence is used in health policy – or conversely how it is exploited or misconstrued – the better the chance that only the most robust scientific evidence will translate into effective regulation to benefit all Australians."

Dean of the Faculty of Pharmacy, Professor Iqbal Ramzan, added: "Such generous support from our alumnus, Mr Peter Feros, is very heartening and recognises the major contribution our academic staff make to the discourse about proper conduct of scientific research. Mr Feros has been a great supporter of the Faculty over many years and we acknowledge his generous contribution."

The gift is supported by Peter Feros and fellow senior pharmacists Phil Dibben, Derek Seefeld, Eddie Viatos, Paul Riley and Richard Walsh.

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