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Pharmacists in Pakistan

By Siraj Shawa

The most intelligent and studious of the students strive to become a part of medical or engineering disciplines after intermediate education. Many of the brilliant students fail to make it into medical or engineering colleges. The first choice of such students who are associated with the medical field is pharm-D. They satiate their yearning for MBBS via subjects of pharmacy as some of these are taught in both the professions. Many of them have always been a great student that’s why parents’ expectations are usually high concerning their careers. They crack arduous subjects to get the knack of pharmacy and go through tough exam system for five years.

As soon as they are admitted many of them give up hopes of successful future careers. Slowly and gradually they are apprised of the fact that a pharmacist plays no important role in the life of a common Pakistani. Straight away many of them build castles in the air about employment in countries like USA, UK, Canada, and Middle East, where pharmacists have dignity, prestige, and play a critical role in health care profession.

Only a handful of pharmacists make it into developed countries after graduation while large numbers of them have to eke out a living in Pakistan. Many languish in industries and are provided with stipends around Rs.12, 000 to Rs.20, 000 per month. Private hospitals exploit their services even for worse remunerations. Many hospitals hire a fresh graduate as a trainee pharmacist for salaries around Rs.10, 000 to Rs.12, 000 a month. This is simply a mockery of the invaluable services of pharmacists who had buried themselves in studying & comprehending tough books and research work for five years to serve the people.

For better earnings some join the marketing field where they encounter torture from the managers, do things which are not related to their profession, and are always in constant motion throughout the day meeting one physician after another in a bid to achieve their targets regarding drugs sale. A large number of them prefer to stay at home rather than going for such tormenting jobs, and may teach at private schools or run small shops in their hometowns.

There is another trend in the market of medicines that is the sale and purchase of licenses. Many pharmacists sell their licenses in return of small cash which is paid to them on yearly basis. This is a very risky affair and such persons can end up in prison, but though they know the consequences yet it has to be done to live on.

The place of a pharmacist has been taken either by commoners, doctors, or nurses. An unprofessional medical retailor, doctor without pharmacist’s assistance, a nurse doing a pharmacist’s job, all put the health and lives of patients at risk. Many people have died so far because of wrong medication usage. Very few people would care about drug compliance. Most of them stop taking medications as soon as they feel a little better.

There are no clinical pharmacists in service, neither in public hospitals nor generally in private ones. Clinical pharmacists co-operate with doctors during rounds and help them prescribe right medications. They also single out drugs in prescriptions which are mutually interacting. On the other hand large number of hospitals also lacks hospital pharmacists who store, prepare, compound, and dispense medications and medical tools.

Retail pharmacies are generally run by amateurs with a purchased license- if they have any. This can result in dreadful outcomes as an unprofessional retailor can by any chance dispense wrong and even a conflicting medication in some cases.

A pharmacist who is legally and professionally responsible for all these tasks, find it hard to be an integral part of health care system in Pakistan. Because of less future expectations and frustration many have abandoned their careers while some continue their studies after graduation in order to get a job at least in teaching profession.

It goes without saying that the expertise and capabilities of a pharmacist graduated from Pakistani universities are not up to the international standards because of weak educational system. The government, Pakistan Pharmacy Council (PPC), and Pakistan Pharmacist Association, all are equally responsible for this failure. PPC has recognized many institutions which offer pharm-D programs and at the same time would lack the required international standards while PPA is also not doing a substantial job in terms of promoting this profession.

HEC, PPC, and PPA needs to take serious steps for the protection of this profession. Pharmacists’ rights have been infringed upon by laymen, physicians, nurses, industrialists etc. Retail pharmacies run by unprofessional persons should be immediately shut down. Such rules should be promulgated which make it obligatory upon each public and private hospital to hire at least one clinical pharmacist per 15 to 20 beds. While hospital pharmacists should also be employed in suitable numbers. Wages of pharmacists serving anywhere either in industry, hospital, or retail pharmacy etc. should be brought up on par with those of grade 17 servants. Pharmacy is a respectable and prestigious profession, its flag bearers should not be treaded upon by government.

The writer can be reached at SirajShawa@gmail.com

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