Doctors vs pharmacists: Selling drugs gets no respect in Pakistan

Pharmacists are overworked, underpaid and not recognised as real medical practitioners. They deserve better!

Rakshinda Mujeeb September 13, 2013
Ever watched a Bollywood song and wondered why the back-up dancers, who are as pretty as the main actor/actress, fail to catch a glimpse of the limelight? There are some people who feel like this all the time. You may recognise them as the people behind the counter at a medical store -- I like to refer to them as ‘pharmacists’.

Fact: they study a crucial, nerve-racking five-year course and earn a doctorate of pharmacy, yet they are not recognised on professional platforms. I believe most of them are tired of this crazy roller coaster, where they are asked several times to describe what they have actually studied.

Many times I have heard them saying,
“I have a Pharm-D degree.”

And then the dumbfounded questions come pouring in,
“F-A-R-M D? What’s that?"

Pharm D is a five-year graduation programme imposed by the Pakistan pharmacy council in 2004. People then go on to debate about the differences between bachelor’s and doctoral degrees in pharmacy. The doctorate part gives you additional clinical exposure and two years of ward rounds in the final years of graduation. While this transition in the curriculum was aimed at keeping pace with the title of degree in advanced countries, we still fail to provide pharmacists a status equal to other health care professionals in our country.

A rising chorus in the pharmacy community has been calling to gain a health care provider status to add up to their profession, but the government of Pakistan denies identifying this issue in their list of top priority concerns.

Why is it so hard to provide pharmacists with their right to be paid for the vital role they play in patient care? Patients from all over the country visit pharmacists to get flu shots or a daily dose of vitamins.

When an annual celebrity awards ceremony concludes, not only directors and producers come forward, but backstage make-up artists are also acknowledged. Even when a restaurant wins the slot for top diners in the city, the chefs become the talk of the town. Then why is there such discrimination towards a reverent and hard-working profession?

Behind every successful project, there is a dedicated and enthusiastic team who made efforts and spent every single day working towards a better future. Likewise, pharmacists are an integral part in the team of healthcare providers. They improve the medication outcomes, address and identify medication errors and any possibilities of adverse drug reactions.

In a country where instances of people dying from taking the wrong medicines are common, pharmacists should be given their due credit, so they can be encouraged to help prevent this from happening. They will be more motivated, because currently, they are given the same status as, say, chemists.

Some of you may not even know the difference.

It is sad to see that in some medical facilities, people with no degree in pharmacy are allowed to assume the position of pharmacists. This is not only extremely dangerous for patients but also unfair, because Pakistan is producing some great pharmacy graduates who are jobless. Where we take inspiration from western countries to improve other sectors of our country, perhaps we should take heed and treat our pharmacy practitioners the way they treat theirs.

Moreover, pharmacists have the potential to ensure that patients have easy access to medication and medical expertise at all times, instead of waiting for physicians at hospitals to provide their undivided attention and discuss their medication charts. The Higher Education Commission of Pakistan needs to improvise health plans at both state and private levels by making effort to strengthen the grass roots of pharmacy and health sciences.

Being a custodian of the pharmacy professionals, a great responsibility lies on the shoulders of the Pharmacy Council of Pakistan to uplift and take desperate measures to reform and align the pharmacy education and practices at par with the rest of the health care world, by confiding in various stakeholders.

Overworked and underpaid, Pakistan treats its pharmacists as its step children.

The healthcare provider status shall bring a zing along with greater compensation and respect to pharmacy practitioners. They will have a legislative goal to attain medical care provider status that will be faced as a challenge among the pharmacists with evidence of equal knowledge, quality and experience.

Give them their due share, they deserve it!
Rakshinda Mujeeb Researcher by profession, writer by choice. She also works as a content writer for an NGO. She enjoys the impact her articles have on readers.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Dr.Mohammud Riyaz Bhatti | 10 years ago | Reply Pharm.D is a good curriculum based degree program.but it is not yet fully implemented in Pakistan.Pharmacy Council Pakistan is issuing recognition without verifying the requisite facilities to many new pharmacy teaching Institutions.
Ams | 10 years ago | Reply Its not just they are mere dispensers..although it looks like..their importance in delivering healthcare has been proved in studies and by health authorities. GPs see them mostly as their helping hands..taking OFF extra burden of patients by involving them in selfcare. Also it reduces costs for NHS
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