March 13, 2018

Pharmacy Awareness Month Profile Series, Part III: Marvin Butler


Q: How long have you been a pharmacist?

A; I have worked as a pharmacist pretty much since I graduated. I have enjoyed the benefits of working as a community pharmacist, in industry and, since 2010, with Eastern Health in hospital pharmacy.

Q: What inspired you to become a hospital pharmacist?

A: A combination of opportunity and pragmatism. When I applied to Memorial, pharmacy had just started being offered as a bachelor’s degree program and I perceived it to be a real opportunity. Plus, I am super competitive. I’m proud to stay that only three of the students in my class got into the pharmacy program straight out of general studies – that appealed to my competitive side.

Q: How has your role changed over the years?

A: It has changed dramatically. We are constantly expected to achieve best patient outcomes while reducing spend. This is where procurement and HealthPRO have really moved to the forefront.  We must rationalize and justify every spend on drugs; thankfully, we’re able to fund these purchases through HealthPRO’s group buying power programs. Their infrastructure and staff support our purchasing decisions.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you feel pharmacists face in hospital pharmacy today?

A: The biggest challenge is the pressure to be more engaged at the clinical level. In Newfoundland, we are more involved at the medication distribution level and the challenge is to free ourselves up to become active, engaged members with clinical teams on the floors. We are making great strides with this at Eastern Health but still some ways away from our goal of embedding a pharmacist within each clinical area.

Q: Most people don’t realize that the pharmaceutical supply chain doesn’t end when the medication is delivered to the hospital. What is one thing you’d want readers to know about the hospital pharmacy supply chain that they might not realize?

A: Based on my experience, I believe there’s a real opportunity for better communication between the manufacturer (the life I used to live) and the hospital pharmacy (the life I live now.)

Based on evolving standards and the supply chain requirements of hospital pharmacies, we have an unmet need in terms of products not being in a ready-to-use format. Unfortunately, many areas within hospital get products that need major manipulation on our part before they are delivered to the patient. This is time-consuming.  More communication between those who come up with the commercial offerings and the hospital pharmacies can result in better offerings to match our needs.  

Q: What is the most rewarding part of being a hospital pharmacist?

A: When you receive feedback that the efforts of your department resulted in a positive outcome. Maybe it was because you were able to access a special drug, or a drug out of the norm, or a rapid response drug and you were successful. That’s gratifying.

Recently, we had a backorder situation for an anti-rejection drug. As a result, the patient was going to have to be switched to an alternate form of therapy that was less than ideal.  Through HealthPRO, we procured some product from another province to bridge us to the release date of the drug.

Q: How does HealthPRO bring value to your organization? 

A: In Newfoundland, we lean heavily upon HealthPRO to be our conduit for best practices sharing about other jurisdictions. Rather than reinvent the wheel, we get to take someone else’s wheel that they’ve put time, effort and resources into and make minor adjustments, so it works within our system. HealthPRO has recognized the need in these areas. HealthPRO staff understand the issues and the unmet need to format solutions that work for us.