I first encountered her two years ago. She has come to buy Betapyn, a common analgesic (pain killer), over the counter. I was hesitant to dispense to her the drug coz it is a prescription-only-medicine containing codeine, an addictive opioid. She was a bit rude and informed me that she has been purchasing the same for a long time at the same pharmacy. The superintendent pharmaceutical technologist reiterated the same and went ahead to dispense it to her. Later on, we sat down to talk about the incident. He informed me that “vitu kwa ground ni different” (pharmacy practice in the field was different from the theory taught in class). This was in a bid to justify that malpractice.
A few weeks later, I had a sit down with the client to discuss her use of Betapyn. To cut the long story short, I discovered she was suffering from hypertension. I referred her for proper management. Unfortunately, she was already addicted to Codeine.
Pharmacists have a unique knowledge of medications that should be fully utilised to help patients minimize diseases, manage their disease conditions and live a healthy life. The role of pharmacists in the healthcare system, though largely overlooked, is very critical since community pharmacies are the first point of contact between a patient and a country’s healthcare system. Pharmacies also come at the tail end when the patient exits the healthcare system. As such, it is very important that the pharmaceutical sector is properly regulated. Unfortunately, this is not the case in Kenya. But let’s talk about this another day.
As we mark the 10th World Pharmacists Day, it is incumbent upon pharmacist and the general public to understand the role played by these doctors in the healthcare system. With their unique knowledge, pharmacists ensure champion for medication safety to ensure the drugs used do not harm patients. They play a critical role in the medication use system by ensuring that drugs are readily available, properly prescribed and dispensed, used correctly and are safe for the patient. The pharmacists, other than being involved in drug design, development and manufacture, also act as a link between the patients, prescribers and the healthcare system to ensure such innovations are available and beneficial to the patients. Involvement of pharmacists in the multidisciplinary approach to patient and case management has also been proven to reduce burn out among clinicians and improve treatment outcomes.
My advice to pharmacists this year is “Do Not Sit Back”. We must be ready and willing to take up leadership positions in the healthcare system. We must not allow non-pharmacists to be utilised in positions most suited for pharmacists as this is not in the best interest of the patients and the profession. Taking up these roles involve each one understanding their roles and not forgetting ethical practice even as they use their skills and knowledge.
Secondly, pharmacists must resist the temptation of settling into the comfort of routine, most often rationalized as gaining experience. Too much of one experience actually hampers professional growth.
“Many people end up in the wrong place only coz they stayed in the right place too long” ~ John C. Maxwell
Thirdly, always appraise your knowledge and professional assets. This could be through a short course, a training program, updating your resume, presentations, attending conferences etc.
But while doing all these, do not be burdened by either the weight of unnecessary knowledge or that of useless experience. Always examine your experiences to avoid missing crucial learning opportunities. Know when to move to a new experience and do not overstay your usefulness in a given place.
Lastly, the elephant in the room today in Kenya is the lack of willingness by both level of governments and the private sector to employ pharmacists. There is no more guaranteed employment. No more job security. It’s time to shift focus to career security. Work on your communication and networking skills. Attend to personal and professional development. Build a career and not a job.
Remember that your success in the profession will ultimat be determined by the trust you earn from various stakeholders (patients, fellow healthcare professionals, government etc)
“Our practice must be based on the basic belief that Pharmacy is ultimately not about technology, computers, budget or even drugs but about people we serve and our genuine love, respect and concern for them” ~ Billy Woodward
Happy World Pharmacists Day to all the legal drug lords out there.
Dr. Kodiwo Antony Benard
A Pharmacist by grace and by passion