By Chioma Umeha
The continued sophistication and inventory of activities in the healthcare supply chain has placed pharmacists at a very critical position in the delivery of healthcare services in any country.
Pharmacists, in the general term, are healthcare professionals who are entrusted with the pivotal role of dispensing medicines.
But, pharmacists under the auspices of Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), has dismissed the generic definition of their roles in healthcare industry, saying it is not limited to mere dispensation of drugs.
Buttressing their argument, they said that a study of modern day healthcare supply chain shows the duties of pharmacists which have gone beyond dispensation of drugs.
Explaining further, Pharm Ahmed Yakasai, President, PSN, stressed: “This is understandably so given that there is more to drug distribution in the supply chain than meets the eyes.
Yakasai also said that this is evident because effective healthcare services cannot be practiced in a place devoid of efficient drug management and this is where pharmacists have a huge role to play.
Stating this in his speech at this year’s World Pharmacy Day, themed, ‘Caring for you’, a copy of which was made available to Independent, Yakasai, stressed that this is largely to the peculiar nature of drug administration and the attendant effects of non-compliance to rules and procedures.
The PSN boss further worried that there is an urgent need for thorough professionalism in the supply and dispensing of drugs and other healthcare services.
According to him, pharmacists are essential in providing thorough professionalism in the supply and dispense of drugs and other healthcare services.
The PSN boss restated that the pharmacist role is essential to the day-to-day administration of healthcare services and therefore eminently qualified for many reasons.
For instance, he reasoned that the pharmacists understands the principles of quality assurance as they are applied to medicines and appreciate the intricacies of the distribution chain and the principles of efficient stock-keeping and stock turnover.
Other reasons he gave are: “They are familiar with the pricing structures applied to medicinal products that obtain within the markets in which they operate;
“They are the custodians of much technical information on the products available on their domestic market;
“They are able to provide informed advice to patients with minor illnesses and often to those with more chronic conditions who are on established maintenance therapy,” Yakasai added.
Speaking further, Yakasai said: “The distinctive expertise of the pharmacists provide members of the profession with a suitable background to assume diverse responsibilities in both public administration and drug manufacture and supply.”
This lends credence to the fact that the duties of pharmacists within the healthcare circle goes beyond drug dispensing, the PSN President said.
He said: “Pharmacists in the present day healthcare system engage in drug regulation and control. They also participate in the formulation and ensuring quality control of pharmaceutical products as well as inspection and assessment of drug manufacturing facilities, among others.
These are the core areas pharmacists have shown competence, and therefore superintends in the provision of facilities for drug manufacturing companies in some countries, he pointed.
He further explained that based on their activities, pharmacists serve as members of a multidisciplinary team, rather than in an autonomous capacity
Yakasai said: “At various levels in any nation’s drug registration and regulation, pharmacists function to ensure desirability and functionality.”
For instance, he noted that regulatory agencies ensure that all pharmaceutical products conform to acceptable standards of quality, safety and efficacy; and that all premises and practices employed to manufacture, store and distribute these products comply with requirements until such time as they are delivered to the end user.
“Incidentally, the administrative and technical responsibilities of these agencies fall within the ambit of pharmaceutical jobs and are directed towards quality assurance,” he said, adding, ‘this is found mostly in industrial pharmacy.”
Also, Yakasai said that the specialised knowledge of pharmacists on the management and properties of medicines in the increasingly sophisticated healthcare sector has also made them immediate partners to doctors.
He further observed that this makes a pharmacist a source of independent information about therapeutic options and about the consequences – both positive and negative – of treatment.
According to him, this brings the pharmacist closer to patients in the community as accessible dispensers, not only of medicines, but health-related information.
He said apart from providing informed advice to patients with minor illnesses and often to those with more chronic conditions and are on established maintenance therapy, their specialty also underscores their role in health care delivery.
The PSN boss said, “I want to enjoin consumers of health to continue if they have and if not begin to maximally utilise the peculiar expertise of their pharmacists at community, hospital, industrial or academic levels.
“Your pharmacist is an invaluable source of information on all medicines. It is your right to tap this huge reserve and potential.
“Pharmacists’ specialised knowledge of the management and properties of medicines in an increasingly sophisticated health care environment brings them closer to prescribing doctors as a source of independent information about therapeutic options and about the consequences – both positive and negative – of treatment.
“It also brings them closer to patients in the community as readily accessible dispensers not only of medicines but also of health-related information.”
He therefore advised that pharmacists should be given their deserved attention and recognition in the society.
He said: “In less affluent settings, inadequacies in the provision of primary health care are attributable to shortcomings within the drug distribution chain.
“Only when the pharmacist has been accepted as a vital member of the health care team can the necessary supporting services be organised with the professionalism that they demand,” Yakasai stressed.
Corroborating, Olumide Akintayo, immediate past President of the PSN explained that following development of specific and potent synthetic drugs, the pharmacists’ responsibility have now shifted towards the utilization of scientific knowledge in the proper use of modern medicines and the protection of the public against dangers that are inherent in their use.
Akintayo said: “This is one area the public will have to take adequate advantage of pharmaceutical knowledge because so many people have died due to poor drug administration and consumption.”
Akintayo said that pharmacists are today found in virtually all areas of life requiring proper production, supervision and administration of drugs to end users.
Such places as regulatory agencies, communities, hospitals, industries, academic and training facilities where their services are required for effective management of issues related to drug and training.
For instance, community pharmacists are the ones most accessible to the public.
There are also pharmacists in hospital who have greater opportunity to interface and interact with patients. Hospital pharmacists have the privileged of controlling the procurement and manufacturing of hospital’s drug and will fully offer advice when necessary.
In some countries, governments have made laws that certain positions in the drug manufacturing industries will only be held by pharmacists. They are called industry pharmacists.
On account of these, Akintayo insisted that the role of pharmacists in medical industrial chain is multi-prong and scientifically relevant to effective drug administration and control in any country.