September 25, every year, the world celebrates the World Pharmacists Day to honour chemists across the globe for their tireless work and contribution in healthcare systems.
Regarded as the most accessible health professionals, the role of a pharmacist varies from developing and availing new drugs to patients, dispensing medicines, disease-management, advising and providing information about potential side effects of drug and drug interactions, as well as promoting patient adherence while ensuring safe and effective medication use.
Pharmacists are highly trained healthcare professionals providing a broad spectrum of services in community pharmacies, hospitals, pharmaceutical industries, academia, and civil society.
This year’s theme for the day was “Pharmacists, your medicines expert” with an intent to defy the label of “drug sellers” that has been given to pharmacists due to the nature of their work, especially in the retail/community pharmacy setting.
The symbolic day further intends to reiterate the role and impact of pharmacists and the pharmacy profession on the horizons of healthcare systems and the fact that they are an integral part of a healthcare team. Pharmacists aspire to make a disease-free world.
Although, healthcare professionals are dedicated and passionate people and don’t seek kudos for their work, clearly, it is important to recognise each and every one’s role in the healthcare field to boost teamwork so as to improve quality of services to patients.
The role, work and impact of a pharmacist have been underrated over the years, especially in the developing world due to, mostly, lack of strong health systems, lack of resources to retain and compensate pharmacists in public hospitals, over-lap of responsibilities among healthcare professionals and lack of inter-professional collaboration.
Partly, it is a result of the education systems that doesn’t promote this collaboration.
There is also a growing jostle for spotlight among medical doctors and pharmacists where in some cases, doctors think that the contribution of pharmacists has less value to the management of diseases and ignore their advice, which jeopardises expected outcomes for patients.
To put it in the context, a pharmacist at the university goes through a thorough curriculum related exclusively to medications and treatment of diseases, and goes on to study more than eight semesters of pharmacology, therapeutics, toxicology and advanced pharmaceutics, contrary to medical doctors who have, at most, two semesters of this crucial information about drugs.
For a medical student, life is about investing time and energy in learning how to diagnose, laboratory testing, understanding anatomy, physiology, parasitology and the diseases.
The problem arises when, rather than collaborating, they start competing or thinking that one is better or more important than the other.
A pharmacist and doctor would make a perfect collaboration if there is mutual respect and recognition of each one’s role in the team and put aside egos and entitlement so as to bring their knowledge and expertise together into use for the benefits of the patient.
The author is the CEO of Unitia Pharmaceuticals.