The practice of pharmacy should be taken to the community level. Pharmacists need to increase and improve their interaction with the local communities, Asian Pharmacist Association president Joseph Wang said on Saturday.
He was speaking on the closing day of the 16th annual International Pharmacy Conference and Exhibition at Pearl Continental Hotel. He stressed the importance of community pharmacy, requiring an important role for the pharmacist in the healthcare system. He told The Express Tribune that pharmacists had regrettably limited themselves to hospitals and doctors when they could be more useful to the society if they developed a close relationship with local communities. This, he said, would benefit a large number of people who were used to taking medicines for minor problems like headaches or even fever on their own instead of consulting a physician. He said the focus of a pharmacy should be the patients.
Wang also said that there was great scope for women in the field of pharmacy. He said women pharmacists’ role was important because of their involvement in maternal and child health issues.
Earlier, Azhar Hussain, a Hamdard University associate professor, said that about 80 per cent of healthcare spending was on procurement of medicines. He said while working on his PhD thesis on community pharmacy he had learnt how underdeveloped the field was in Pakistan.
He said that a large quantity of drugs was being wasted because of the lack of coordination between the three vertices of the healthcare triangle – physicians, paramedics and pharmacists. He said that the role of pharmacists was critical because they were responsible for procurement and distribution of medicine.
He said his research was undertaken in five broad topics:
Legal status of pharmacies, qualifications of pharmacists, process of selling drugs, if and how do the pharmacists brief the patients on the usage of drugs and an analysis of drug manufacturers, policy makers and other stakeholders.
Sheikh Abdur Rasheed, a lecturer at Gomal University in Dera Ismail Khan, said that there was no pharmacy in the city when he had opened his facility. He said that currently between seven and 10 people were working at his pharmacy. He said engagement with local community would increase the benefit of pharmacists to the society. He said awareness raising campaigns at the grassroots level could help in this regard.
He said medical relief and rehabilitation work during last year’s floods could have been much more organised had some effort going into promoting pharmacists’ interaction with communities.
Pakistan Pharmacist Association president Dr Naseerruddin Ahsan Iqbal raised the issue of clustering of pharmacies around some prominent hospitals. He opposed the trend and said that by increasing competition it had led the pharmacies to use unfair means to secure high sales and profits at the cost of patients’ welfare.
Iqbal said there were at least 125 pharmacies surrounding Mayo Hospital and 150 around the Punjab Institute of Cardiology. He said that a minimum of 500 yards distance should be maintained between two pharmacies if they were to be distributed according to the population.
In all, 72 speakers presented their academic papers on topics covering pharmaceutical industry, research, pharmacy education and practice.
More than 1,600 people attended the conference from all over the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 1st, 2011.