APhA coronavirus watch: Trump decision to withdraw from WHO prompts pharmacy response

Frontline pharmacists who are caring for patients rely heavily on the World Health Organization (WHO), said APhA and the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) in a July 8, 2020, statement. The statement urges the United States to reconsider its withdrawal from the global health organization.

WHO is an offshoot of the United Nations focused on international public health. Established in 1948, WHO advocates for universal health care, monitors public health risks, coordinates responses to health emergencies, and promotes human health and well-being. It provides technical assistance to countries, sets international health standards and guidelines, and collects data on global health issues. During the pandemic, its work around health emergencies—preparing for emergencies by identifying, mitigating, and managing risks; preventing emergencies and supporting development of tools necessary during outbreaks; and detecting and responding to acute health emergencies—is especially crucial.

“It’s important now, more than ever, that communities and health professionals across the globe work together to continue to understand and mitigate the spread of coronavirus,” APhA executive vice president and CEO Scott J. Knoer, MS, PharmD, FASHP, said in the July 8 statement. “Not having the United States influence and support WHO could be detrimental to the health of patients around the world during this immediate crisis, and as we prepare for future pandemics.”

On May 29, 2020, President Trump announced that the United States would stop funding and would leave WHO, citing accusations it helped China conceal COVID-19 during the virus’s early stages. Critics of the move say the decision will weaken public health efforts around the world. The withdrawal will not take effect until July 6, 2021.

Pharmacists have a long history of working with WHO. “FIP has been in official relations with the WHO since 1948 and has made considerable strides in our partnership to expand the roles of pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists in improving global well-being and health and safe access to medicines,” Catherine Duggan, PhD, FRPharmS, FIP chief executive officer, said in the statement. “The experiences and support of the U.S. government and practitioners have significantly shaped the work and collaboration opportunities emanating from the WHO, especially during COVID-19.”

“We strongly urge the U.S. government to reconsider its withdrawal from the WHO and support collaborative efforts in the global fight against COVID-19. We applaud the work and dedication of individual practitioners, organizations, communities and governments worldwide in their efforts to mitigate, contain and prevent the spread of COVID-19,” the APhA/FIP statement concludes.