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The PJ Pod

Brought to you by the team behind the Pharmaceutical Journal, the PJ Pod will keep you one step ahead of developments in pharmacy, medicines and the pharmaceutical sciences. Get exclusive behind-the-scenes access to our expert journalists and special guests, who will be sharing their knowledge and insight.

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Myth-busting acute pain and its treatment

Which combination is most effective? Should I take this with food? The public often ask for advice on how to treat acute pain conditions, such as headaches, period pain or soft tissue injuries.

At first glance, it may seem straightforward; however, there are some common misconceptions around the changing evidence in this area.

In this episode, Caitlin Killen, assistant clinical editor, and Nigel Praities, executive editor, debunk some of these myths, and ask two experts to give the science on how acute pain should be treated.

Many thanks to Yousaf Ahmad, chief pharmacist at Frimley Health and Care Integrated Care System and co-chair of the UK Clinical Pharmacy Association Pain Committee, and Dominic Aldington, pain consultant and clinical lead for pain management at the Hampshire Hospitals NHS Trust, for their expertise.

This episode is supported by Reckitt and was produced by Geoff Marsh.

Pandemic plus? The antibiotic resistance lurking in our rivers

In this episode, Carolyn Wickware, investigations editor, looks at the emerging evidence that UK rivers are becoming a dangerous ‘breeding ground’ for bacteria resistant to antibiotics that could adversely affect human health.

Alistair Boxall, professor of environmental science at the University of York, describes his concerns over the level of antibiotics that he has measured in our water system, and Jason Snape, global head of environment at AstraZeneca, gives the pharmaceutical industry perspective on the issue.

Sharon Pfleger, a consultant in pharmaceutical public health at NHS Highland and professor at Robert Gordon University, also describes her work looking at how to remove traces of drugs from hospital waste water, which is being funded by the Scottish government.

This episode was produced by Geoff Marsh.

Can antiviral drugs turn the tide on COVID-19?

There have been claims that COVID-19 oral antivirals, such as molnupiravir and Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir + ritonavir), will “change the course of the pandemic”.

But with limited supply, a short treatment window and only a few patient groups eligible to receive them — can these drugs really turn things around?

In this episode, Dawn Connelly, features editor, and Julia Robinson, clinical and science editor, answer questions from PJ readers on how they will be used in practice.

They are joined by Penny Ward, visiting professor in pharmaceutical medicine at King’s College London, and Fiona Marra, a consultant infectious disease pharmacist based in Scotland.

Thank you to Rob Ardley, Nicola Vasey, Umeh Ali and Gareth Malson for their questions. This episode was produced by Geoff Marsh.

Apprentice pharmacists: could they help reduce shortages?

In this episode, we explore the arguments for and against the planned introduction of degree apprenticeships as an alternative for the traditional MPharm degree in England.

Reporter Corrinne Burns speaks with Mark Koziol, chair of the Pharmacists’ Defence Association, who is sceptical about the benefits for future pharmacists.

Exploring the other side of the argument, Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, explains how degree apprenticeships could become a debt-free access route into pharmacy.

Finally, a group of just-qualified and future pharmacists give their views on whether their younger selves would have been attracted to a degree apprenticeship.

Many thanks to Osayuki Igbinoba, Vivien Yu, Adam Ismail and Aman Sehdev for speaking to us about this topic. This episode was produced by Geoff Marsh.

2021 unwrapped: the year in pharmacy

In our last PJ Pod of the year, we eat some mince pies and ruminate over what has been a momentous 12 months in the history of the pharmacy profession.

We also stake our journalistic reputations on some predictions of what might be the big news for pharmacists in 2022. Should pharmacists in the NHS be preparing for industrial action over pay? What will health secretary Sajid Javid's next move be? Will degree apprenticeships be introduced in pharmacy?

Hosting this episode is executive editor Nigel Praities, who is joined by the PJ team, including Julia Robinson, clinical and science editor, Carolyn Wickware, deputy news editor, Corrinne Burns, RPS correspondent and Angela Kam, senior research and learning editor.

The episode was produced by Geoff Marsh.

Pale and stale: decolonising the pharmacy degree

Over the past few years, pharmacy student Adanna Anthony-Okeke has been leading a project to "decolonise" the curriculum at the University of Nottingham’s school of pharmacy.

In this episode, we speak to her and MPharm course leader Helen Boardman about how this work has led to significant and ongoing change to the syllabus.

Clinical and science editor, Julia Robinson, also investigates the progress being made in universities across the UK to make the pharmacy degree more inclusive.

Robinson also speaks to Vini Lander, director of the centre for race education and decoloniality at Leeds Beckett University, to find out what decolonisation means within the context of the healthcare sciences and where this movement might be heading in the future.

Here are links to the learning resources supporting skin equality referred to in the podcast: Recognising common skin conditions in people of colour and Common dermatological conditions in skin of colour.

This episode was produced by Geoff Marsh and supported by Reckitt. The Pharmaceutical Journal retained editorial responsibility at all times.

Will ranitidine ever make a comeback?

Stomach acid-suppressing medicine ranitidine disappeared from pharmacy shelves two years ago, owing to fears of contamination with probable human carcinogen N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA).

In this episode, features editor Dawn Connelly finds out why.

She speaks with David Light, chief executive officer of Valisure, the online pharmacy that first identified the contamination in ranitidine, and Michael White, professor of pharmacy practice at the University of Connecticut, about the implications for other similar medicines.

Connelly also assesses evidence ranitidine could be about to make a comeback and discusses the problems of switching to alternative treatments with Mikin Patel, lead pharmacist in gastroenterology at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, London, and Alisdair Jones, a primary care network pharmacist in Folkestone, Kent.

This episode was produced by Geoff Marsh and additional research was carried out by Emma Wilkinson.

Antidepressant withdrawal: why has it been ignored for so long?

Until recently, the withdrawal symptoms some people experience after stopping an antidepressant were not recognised as a serious problem.

However, they can be extremely distressing, and so patients have been forced to set up their own online support groups to share information how best to taper antidepressant doses.

In this episode, executive editor Nigel Praities talks with Adele Framer, founder of SurvivingAntidepressants.Org, one of the largest peer-support groups, about her and many other patients' experiences.

Wendy Burn, former chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, describes what has led to a remarkable turnaround in attitudes among specialist doctors to withdrawal symptoms in the UK, and David Taylor, professor of psychopharmacology at King's College London, explains the latest evidence on how to prevent serious these symptoms from occurring.

Specialist mental health pharmacist Chris Johnson also speaks about his work with GP practices in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, which has helped more than 10,000 patients stop taking their antidepressants.

Here is the guidance on stopping antidepressants from the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

This episode was produced by Geoff Marsh and additional research was carried out by Abigail James. We are grateful to Peter Groot from Utrecht University, Netherlands, for his help with this episode.

Meet the MAbs: the new treatments for vulnerable patients with COVID-19

There have been some promising trial results recently regarding the efficacy of monoclonal antibodies (or MAbs) in patients with COVID-19.

In this podcast, features editor Dawn Connelly and clinical and science editor Julia Robinson investigate the science behind these exciting new treatments and the potential role of pharmacists in preparing, supplying and assessing patients for their use.

Robinson also visits the aseptics lab at King's College Hospital in London to find out from senior pharmacist James Cheung how MAbs are made.

With thanks to associate professor Al Edwards from the Reading School of Pharmacy and PJ deputy news editor Carolyn Wickware for their help in preparing this podcast.

This episode was produced by Geoff Marsh.

Our exclusive on NHS plans for a community-based MAbs service.

More information on the clinical trials discussed in this podcast.

Pharmacy’s mental health crisis: building back better post-pandemic

The stress and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic has had a detrimental impact on everyone’s mental health; however, the impact on frontline healthcare workers has been particularly acute.

For some of these individuals, it will have a long-lasting effect and they may require support for a number of years to come.

In this podcast, Julia Robinson investigates the experiences of pharmacists redeployed to intensive care units during the height of the pandemic and the impact it has had on their mental health and wellbeing.

Robinson also looks at the longer term implications for the whole of the pharmacy profession, speaking with Nina Barnett, a consultant pharmacist with extensive experience in providing coaching, mentoring and education for healthcare professionals, and Clare Gerada, medical director of NHS Practitioner Health, a free confidential counselling service previously just available to doctors and dentists, about the support that is needed going forward.

Thank you to Paresh, Sarah, Hira and "Jane" for sharing their personal stories with us. This podcast was produced by Geoff Marsh.

For support and to access resources from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Wellbeing hub.

Is Amazon Pharmacy really a threat?

Amazon has been shaking up the US pharmacy market during the COVID-19 pandemic, and has just been granted a trademark in the UK.

In this podcast, deputy news editor Carolyn Wickware looks at whether Amazon Pharmacy really is a threat to community pharmacies in the UK, which is a very different market to the US.

Wickware speaks with the CEO of McKesson UK, Toby Anderson, about its progress on implementing a digital pharmacy brand, and Jay Badenhorst, chair of the National Pharmacy Association’s Online Pharmacy Services Group, about what smaller pharmacies can do to prepare for the arrival of the online retail giant.

She also finds out the long-view for community pharmacy from Matthew Lee, managing director at investment bank Lincoln International.

This podcast was produced by Geoff Marsh.

Shattering the silence on hidden disabilities in pharmacy

This podcast uncovers the problem of ‘hidden disabilities’ in pharmacy, and what can be done to make the profession more supportive for those with health conditions, such as hearing or mobility issues, that may be hard to see.

We speaks with two pharmacists, Nalwenga Mutambo and Aamer Safdar, about their experiences working as a pharmacist with a hidden disability and how they came to the realisation that they needed help.

We also speak with Paul Day, director at the Pharmacists’ Defence Union, and Diane Lightfoot, chief executive of the Business Disability Forum, about the laws that are in place and how employers can make adjustments to ensure that pharmacy is a more welcoming profession.

This episode is presented by Abigail James and was produced by Geoff Marsh. It is part of The Pharmaceutical Journal‘s Mind the Gap campaign to highlight the social inequalities that pharmacists face. Find out more about the Pharmaceutical Journal's Mind The Gap campaign.

A written transcript of this episode is available here.

Proregs, the pandemic and a 'new normal' for pharmacy training

Over the past year, the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic for those trying to enter the pharmacy profession has been profound.

In this episode, we investigate how pharmacy’s own “Generation COVID” is feeling, with two provisionally registered pharmacists recording audio diaries in the weeks leading up to their long-delayed registration assessment.

These diaries share their day-to-day lives, thoughts about the exam and their future beyond.

We also speak with Janet Whittam, a training facilitator in Greater Manchester, and Gail Fleming, director of education and professional development at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, about how they think the experiences of proregs could inform the changes planned to pharmacy training long-term, including the new foundation training year and the registration exam.

Thank you to Regan, Andrew, Janet and Gail for speaking with us for this episode. The General Pharmaceutical Council was asked, but declined to appear.

This episode is presented by Corrinne Burns and Nigel Praities. It was produced by Geoff Marsh.

COVID-19 vaccines: your questions answered (part 2)

With three COVID-19 vaccines approved in the UK, the focus is now shifting towards how the vaccination programme is being rolled out

This podcast picks up where we left off in our previous one, answering a new set of readers questions submitted through the PJ website and social media.

Nigel Praities, executive editor, Dawn Connelly, features editor, and Julia Robinson, clinical and science editor, attempt to answer these questions using the latest available information and the help of some external experts.

Thanks to Steve Griffin, associate professor in the school of medicine at the University of Leeds, Fazila Jumabhoy, lead pharmacist for Central North Leeds Primary Care Network and John Tregoning, a reader in respiratory disease at Imperial College London.

This episode was produced by Geoff Marsh.

Cannabis on the NHS: a missed opportunity?

Recently, it emerged that Billy Caldwell — the young boy who sparked a change in the law over medical cannabis — has received an NHS prescription for the cannabis oil to treat his severe epilepsy.

However, two years after its legalisation, Billy is only one of a handful of patients who have received an NHS prescription for medical cannabis in the UK. This is despite many thousands of patients using cannabis for medical reasons around the world.

In this podcast, we look at why so few patients are receiving NHS prescriptions and whether this may change anytime soon.

We speak with Matt Hughes, the father of Charlie, who has been refused medical cannabis on the NHS; Mike Barnes, a neurologist who runs a number of private medical cannabis clinics and Janine Barnes, a specialist pharmacist who was a member of the NICE clinical guideline development group for medical cannabis.

This episode was presented by Corrinne Burns and Nigel Praities. It was produced by Geoff Marsh.

Read the Pharmaceutical Journal's Special Report on Medicinal Cannabis.

COVID-19 vaccines: your questions answered

We asked PJ readers to submit their questions regarding the different COVID-19 vaccines being developed around the world, the phase III trial results and the practicalities of how these vaccines will be administered. In this podcast, Dawn Connelly, features editor and Julia Robinson, clinical and science editor, will try to answer these questions using the latest available information and the help of some external experts.

Thanks to Charles Bangham, chair in immunology and co-director of the Institute of Infection at Imperial College London and Stephen Evans, professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

A link to the infographic referred to in the podcast is here.

Please do let us know if you have any outstanding questions regarding the COVID vaccines after listening to this podcast. Email us at [email protected] — if there are enough, we may do another podcast!

Post-pandemic pharmacy: a brave new world?

This podcast celebrates the shortlisted entries to The Pharmaceutical Journal's 2020 writing competition.

Hosted by executive editor Nigel Praities and opinion editor Abigail James, we hear all the shortlisted entrants read out their pieces, give an insight into what makes a winning entry and announce the winners!

MPharm awarding gap: how can BAME students be better supported?(part 2)

Senior staff at two UK pharmacy schools - Reading and Wolverhampton - outline how they are tackling their ethnicity awarding gaps for MPharm degrees and the head of education at the General Pharmaceutical Council explains how its new standards may help improve the situation.

Looking outside of pharmacy, our careers editor Angela Kam also speaks with a recognised expert in how universities can tackle their ethnicity awarding gaps and discuss what works and, crucially, what does not.

Read more about what BAME students experience at university in the Pharmaceutical Journal.

MPharm awarding gap: what BAME students experience at university (part 1)

Careers editor Angela Kam speaks with four ethnic minority students about their experiences of going to university to study pharmacy and explores new evidence there is an "awarding gap" between them and white students studying the MPharm degree.

Publications officer at the British Pharmacy Students Association, Isobel Lowings, also speaks about her organisation’s position on the ethnicity awarding gap and what she thinks should be done about it.

Read more about what BAME students experience at university in the Pharmaceutical Journal.