The interview

Rosa Núria Aleixandre: "Most covid-19 antigen tests that are on the market are shameful"

President of the College of Pharmacists of Girona

4 min
ROSA NÚRIA ALEIXANDRE: "Most of the covid -19 antigen tests are a shame that they are on the market"

From the pharmacy office, from the laboratories where covid test samples are analyzed or from hospital pharmacies, pharmacists have been - and continue to be - one of the mainstays of the fight against the pandemic of the coronavirus. This is stated by the president of the College of Pharmacists of Girona, who regrets the little recognition that the group has received. Long-time clinical analyst, Rosa Núria Aleixandre denounces that the market is full of antigen tests for covid that are a hoax and regrets the passivity of the health authorities regarding this.

The pharmaceutical collective has played, and plays, an important role in the fight against the pandemic. Has it been sufficiently recognized?

Not at all. Everyone talks about tests, tests, etc., but the professionals who deal with them have been the forgotten ones. Seventy percent of laboratory professionals are pharmacists, and they have been working day and night to test samples. Their role, therefore, has been and is key in this pandemic. Microbiologists, 90% of whom are pharmacists, have also played a key role. And hospital pharmacists too, but nobody remembers.

And what about the professionals who work in pharmacists' offices?

Their role is essential. It is the first health professional that the citizen has on the street. We do not realize that they are there until one day they disappear, as it has happened in some small towns, and then mayors have asked us to keep the pharmacy. I am convinced that at the height of the pandemic, if it had not been for pharmacists, not only would the clinics have collapsed, but there would have been a real disaster. When people reached out to primary healthcare and found it had collapsed, at least they could go to the pharmacy. There we recommended that they go immediately to the emergency room or we reassured them and recommended them to wait to see how their condition evolved. This work that we do at street level, which we could call social health care, can be done better and with better results when there is coordination with primary healthcare or with hospitals.

Do you think there is not enough coordination?

Fortunately there is. Nowadays, many patients no longer have to go to the outpatient clinic to pick up prescriptions because the pharmacist, who is connected to the clinical history, can track the prescriptions for a treatment. There is also coordination with the hospital pharmacy, so that many patients do not have to go to the hospital to get medicines for hospital use. But, unfortunately, the pandemic has generated delays in the care of many pathologies that can be as deadly - or more deadly - than the coronavirus, such as cancer and cardiac pathologies. There have been times when many patients have stopped going to health centres for Sintrom control. The pharmacist's role was to warn them that they might not die of covid, but that they were at risk of a clotting problem that could cause their death.

The pharmacists' associations are asking for more responsibility to strengthen the health system. Have you been heard?

At a time of pandemic as the current one it is complicated to move forward in this regard, but it is true that we are about to sign an agreement with CatSalut to regulate all the actions we do from pharmacies in favor of public health, such as participating in the screening of colon cancer or flu vaccination in pharmacies, which we started last year as a pilot test and this year we have not been able to do because of covid.

You evaluated the result of this pilot test as very positive. Could we repeat the experience to vaccinate against covid?

It can be considered when the generalized vaccinations against covid begin, and provided that the conditions that were required in the campaign against influenza are met: it has to be a voluntary pharmacy, which has the necessary space and where professionals have specific training. And also that there is connection with the clinical history, because all these data cannot be lost. Now the problem is how the vaccines arrive, which ones do, and how they are kept.

The College of Pharmacists has joined the pilot test of 'Obrim Girona', which consists of a covid free digital pass for public events. From a mobile application based on the blockchain it is possible to verify that the person joining the event is free of the virus and preserves the confidentiality of the data, which does not leave the phone. How will pharmacies participate?

I think that this initiative is a great opportunity for the blockchain. Our participation will be through pharmacies that join voluntarily, and now we are in the phase of seeing which tests we will use. They have to have the necessary characteristics of reliability, specificity (that it only detects covid, not other things) and sensitivity, i.e. sensitive enough to detect few copies of the covid virus. I am a clinical analyst, I have been in the profession for 36 years and I know all of this very well. And, as president of the College of Pharmacists of Girona, I have the obligation to demand that tests are used with all the guarantees possible.

Are there tests that do not have these guarantees?

Some covid-19 antigen tests that are on the market are shameful, and I don't know how the health authorities allow it. It is totally immoral. Some of the ones that are being sold tell you things that you can't even imagine, nonsense! Like for example that they can also detect the flu. Here a health product or medicine has to be authorized by the Spanish Agency of Medicines and Health Products. These tests have not passed any authorization. The vast majority are not only unauthorized, but it is a shame that no one from Public Health is filing a complaint against them.