Sofia Kälvemark Sporrong: Sweden needs more pharmacy rebels


Eleven years after the deregulation of the pharmacy market, Sweden is facing another comprehensive reform. Now with healthcare in focus. And once again, a distinct pharmaceutical voice is missing in the debate. "It is time for the profession to make themselves heard," says Sofia Kälvemark Sporrong, Professor of Social pharmacy, returning to Sweden and Uppsala University.

Sofia Kälvemark Sporrong, Professor of Social pharmacy

“In Sweden, there has for several years been an over-establishment of pharmacies without a corresponding increase in the number of prescribed drugs. This causes a competition where the professionals, instead of using its expertise to give advice, is forced to spend more and more time selling shampoo and chocolate. This situation is caused by political decisions and creates risks for the customers, and to make a change to the better, pharmacists must demand to be able to carry out their work in the right way. Therefor we should probably implement such professional pride already during education and send a new generation of pharmacy rebels into society.”

After eight years in Danish exile, Sofia Kälvemark Sporrong, professor of Social pharmacy, returns to Uppsala University and the Faculty of Pharmacy. "This is simply the right time in both life and career," she states. With her to the Department of Pharmacy, she brings a number of ongoing research projects, an extensive professional network and, above all, an ambition to advance the field's position at her new – or old – university.

“The research environment for Social and Clinical Pharmacy at the University of Copenhagen gathers an international and interdisciplinary group of PhD researchers, creating fantastic opportunities for interdisciplinary cooperation and talks. At Uppsala University, the field has long lived in a sort of hidden existence, and my hope is to contribute to creating a similar arena here. For the next six months, I will commute part-time to Denmark to finish my work there, and a soft start in Uppsala is exactly what I need to explore what terrain there is to build on.”

She is already in contact with some potential co-researchers. Sofia Kälvemark Sporrong shares the corridor at the Uppsala Biomedical Centre with Björn Wettermark, recently recruited professor of Pharmacoepidemiology. A short walk further away, Ulrika Winblad leads her research group in Health and Medical Care. A four-hour journey west, research in Social pharmacy is conducted in both Gothenburg and Oslo.

“We make a small field with a built-in interdisciplinarity, with the result that we often find ourselves in between calls in medicine and social sciences. On the other hand, drugs and how we use them are major and important societal issues. It costs large sums and can cause both health and illness. Nevertheless, the subject is often absent in debates regarding of future health care reforms. Long before the deregulation of the pharmacy market, I was surprised at how scarce Swedish pharmacists' competence is utilized. Now it is up to the profession and academia to show what they are actually capable of accomplishing.”

An integrated part of Social pharmacy is to actively see and emphasize the benefits that drugs in combination with pharmacists can bring. Already when Sofia Kälvemark Sporrong left Uppsala, the union magazine Svensk Farmaci stated her active role in the pharmaceutical debate, and her stay in Copenhagen has in no way diminished her involvement in the development of the pharmacy market back home in Sweden.

“One of the doctoral students that I have supervised, Kristin Wisell, shows in her dissertation that many politicians primarily regard pharmacies as distributors of drugs. At the same time, a study conducted in 2012 showed that almost every fourth customer interaction at the pharmacies' counters for prescription drugs completely lacked pharmaceutical information. This in despite of the fact that the Swedish Medical Products Agency states that pharmacy staff must "make sure that the patient can use their medicines in the right way". Today, we experience rapid growth in e-commerce in drugs, which conceivably increases the risk of misuse. Here I see a need for both new research and pharmacists who are prepared to make themselves heard in the debate.”

Sofia Kälvemark Sporrong's importance for knowledge about the role of pharmacys and pharmacists in accurate drug use was recently accentuated by the Swedish Pharmaceutical Society, which in 2019 chose to award her the Rune Lönngren Prize. "Sofia has long been a leader in the Nordic region in this important area of science," stated CEO Karin Meyer during the award ceremony at last year's Apoteksforum, and it is by all means a much-anticipated professor that is now heading back across the Öresund Bridge.

“My ambition is to achieve something more lasting for the field than just my own research results. To find out exactly how and where I can contribute the most value, I plan to do as Denmark's new national team captain in men’s football and start my new assignment by talking to as many people in my vicinity as possible. I have already invested in a kettle, and if there are only enough people here who share my preference for tea and Social pharmacy, it should not be too long before we are on our way.”

More information

Visit  Research in Social Pharmacy at Uppsala University
Also visit  Social and Clinical Pharmacy (University of Copenhagen)
Also read  Hon prisas for sin forskning om apotek och samhälle (Läkemedelsvärlden, in Swedish)


Sofia Kälvemark Sporrong
Professor of Social Pharmacy
, Faculty of Pharmacy

text: Magnus Alsne, photo: Swedish Pharmaceutical Society

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Last modified: 2022-11-08