A celebration of our healers, International Nurses Day, is observed every year on May 12th, the birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale. The COVID pandemic has altered future realities and unearthed vulnerabilities of the health ecosystem; it has also brought the dire need for investment in the empowerment of the nursing profession for secure global health. Hence for 2022, the theme for International Nurses Day has been set as ‘Nurses: A Voice to Lead – Invest in nursing and respect rights to secure global health’.
Our frontline warriors, our nursing staff, stood firm to protect millions of lives during the pandemic. They also saved millions of patients from the danger of spurious and falsified medical products. With challenges, the nursing staff had the crucial role of administering and distributing vaccines and other essential medication throughout this pandemic. There is already a shortage of nurses in the country, and to meet WHO (World Health Organisation) set norms, India needs 4.30 million more nurses by 2024. All factors create a situation that poses a significant threat to public health. Even in this highly challenging scenario, the nursing staff continuously deliver highly skilled care to patients.
Adding to the difficulties of the nursing staff and other medical professionals is the widespread presence of spurious and falsified drugs and medical essentials. Throughout the pandemic, a disturbing number of incidents related to substandard and falsified medicines and medical products surfaced in India and globally. Incidents of falsified and substandard medical products during 2020-2021 spiked by 47% and were observed in 23 out of 29 Indian States and Union Territories. Most of these were related to COVID-19 products such as vaccines, anti-biotics, test kits, sanitisers and face masks (ASPA’s Report to the Nation). The scenario shows that even a global health crisis as grave as the pandemic was exploited by criminals as another opportunity to sell falsified and spurious products.
COVID-19 pandemic is one of the many chronic and severe diseases that people have had to deal with. In the face of this reality, it becomes even more consequential that we realize our nurses’ role in patient safety from falsified and spurious medicines and vaccines. Due to the critical position in delivering curative treatment and their experience in handling medications, the nursing staff becomes the most crucial part of the defence against spurious and substandard drugs.
Nurses play a more prominent role than doctors in the healthcare ecosystem regarding spurious, substandard, and falsified drugs. Nurses play a pivotal role in the safety of medicines management, especially during transitional care. Their role is critical in combating substandard and falsified medical products. Therefore, they should be empowered and more involved in medicines management initiatives. But, there is an immediate need to strengthen this defence to make the healthcare ecosystem less vulnerable, protect the sanctity of healthcare and efficiently deliver good quality healthcare to patients.
Our nurses and other medical staff need to be empowered more and supported to deliver good quality and honest healthcare to patients. There is an urgent requirement for real investment towards the empowerment of the nurses and other medical staff to equip them against the threat of spurious and falsified drugs. Globally a mass awareness campaign is being run by the International Nurses Council. This campaign aims to fight against falsified medicines. Taking a cue, India also requires a multi-level strategic campaign that creates widespread awareness among nurses and other medical staff about the gravity of spurious drugs in the system. Focused and solution-driven intervention from policymakers is needed to impact the profession positively. Additionally, it should educate and apprise them about the authentication solutions provided by trustworthy pharma brands on legitimate vaccines and drugs. Also, how to quickly determine the authenticity of these vaccines and medicines through these user-friendly authentication solutions.
Without the empowerment of nursing staff to actively include them in the fight against spurious and substandard drugs, the entire healthcare fraternity’s efforts toward delivering effective healthcare to patients are incomplete.
Nakul Pasricha, President, Authentication Solution Providers’ Association (ASPA)
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