NAVIGATING THE PHARMACY PROFESSION: THE BEST SPECIALTIES THAT CAN IMPROVE PHARMACY PRACTICE IN AFRICA

By Johnson Wanjohi, Adeyemi Sylvester, Beingana Geofrey and Hirwa Brice

This article is aims at exploring various specialties of pharmacy and suggesting best practices that can improve pharmaceutical services in Africa.

Right from the days of apothecaries to our present time, the pharmacy profession has been humankind’s solution to pain and agony of sicknesses and diseases. A pharmacist is an expert on drug therapy and is best in optimizing the use of medications with the aim of improving patient outcome. The International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) and World Health Organization (WHO) developed the concept of “The seven-star pharmacist,” which stated that a well-rounded pharmacist should be a compassionate caregiver, decision maker, effective communicator, lifelong learner and a good manager. The pharmacist should also possess good leadership qualities and the ability to be a teacher and researcher. These diverse skills explain the reason why there are many specialties in pharmacy practice today.

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Healthcare remains one of the biggest challenges in Africa. Access to healthcare has been on the rise in the recent past in Africa, and this increase in the provision of health services is attributed to the efforts of various countries in solving the problem. Pharmacists play an essential role in the delivery of healthcare in Africa and are considered to be on the frontline in the provision of healthcare. The role of pharmacists has evolved in most parts of the world, but the rate in Africa has been slow compared to rest of the world. The role of pharmacists in Africa has remained traditional mostly in dispensing and selling of drugs.  Specialization can enhance the rate of improving pharmacy practice in various fields in pharmacy that would have great impact.

The common specialties in this field in Africa mostly encompass clinical pharmacy. The practice of clinical pharmacy exhibits challenges brought up by the absence of most pharmacists in community pharmacy where pharmacy assistants who are less skilled than the pharmacists are left to run the pharmacies. The unequal distribution of pharmacies in rural regions is also a challenge that faces clinical pharmacy practice in the region. A study done by Marie Kassie (2016), suggest there is an increase of pharmaceutical industries in countries such as South Africa, Nigeria, Algeria, Kenya, and Ghana but a subtle number of companies offer innovative research and drug discovery.

One of the specialties that could help improve healthcare provision in the region is critical care pharmacy. In this field of study, the pharmacist acquires training on evaluating clinical information and provides pharmacologic and technologic intervention in critically ill patients. The pharmacist is also able to provide guidance in decision making where patients in very critical condition exhibit different pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic characteristics of non-critically ill patients. The critical care pharmacist can be a valuable addition to healthcare delivery owing to the fact that Africa lacks a sufficient number of such personnel.

 In addition, pharmacists can also play a key role as public health personnel where they can contribute to health education, promotion, prevention and also health policies in a local, international and global context by making effective use of their pharmaceutical care and analytical skills.

Oncology pharmacy is another specialty that would have a great impact in catapulting healthcare provision in the region. Cancer is now one the leading causes of death in Africa. One of the challenges experienced in the region is the lack of diagnosis and insufficient centers to provide treatment to the overwhelming number of cancer patients. An oncology pharmacist is equipped with immense knowledge in pharmacotherapeutic interventions that would help improve the outcomes in cancer patients. The oncology pharmacist is also able to provide guidance on how to manage intricacy and adverse effects of drug therapy in the management of cancer.

Industrial pharmacy is also a specialty that presents a huge need for personnel in Africa. An industrial pharmacist specializes in all manufacturing, marketing, and distribution processes of drugs. The pharmacist can employ the use of new processes and technology in the production of medicines. In addition to performing quality assurance of all manufacturing activities, the industrial pharmacist can also be involved in pharmacovigilance, waste management, and supply management. The specialty may include gaining knowledge in different fields such as engineering and economics.  

There are also various programs that offer specialization within the pharmaceutical industry where pharmacists gain knowledge on cutting edge research and innovation in drug discovery, development and regulation. Some of the specializations include pharmacogenomics, drug discovery and development, pharmaceutical modeling science, and regulatory science. The pharmacist is involved in pre-clinical and clinical studies that are essential for the creation of new drugs as well as improvement of existing medication. Africa exhibits untapped possibilities in drug discovery owing to a large number of undocumented, unregulated, and insufficient studies on traditional medicine. The specialty would help immediate research and innovation in drug discovery and development in the African continent.

Another key area is regulatory pharmacy, where pharmacists are saddled with the responsibility of ensuring compliance with ethics of pharmacy practice, standard pharmacy education, standard requirements for good manufacturing practice, and treatment guidelines.  There is also the need to support regulation through government policies to ensure that compliance is observed to safeguard all activities in the delivery of pharmaceutical services. Such policies are recommended and enforced by regulatory bodies in each country .

The present generation of pharmacists in Africa should consider the specialties mentioned above which would contribute in spearheading improvement of healthcare delivery in the region. Learning institutions should also take steps in introducing these specialties with the aim of providing current knowledge and training needed to solve the problems as well as fill the gaps in healthcare. An old African adage that states: “Learn from the person who knows the way.”  It is, therefore, expedient for us to make necessary adjustments to our curriculum and also collaborate with the developed countries where these specialties are being practiced in order to create opportunities for learning and paradigm shift.

The writers are members of Regional Projects Subcommittee of IPSF African Regional Office.

rpo@afro.ipsf.org

References

  1. bps. (n.d.). Board of Pharmacy specialties. Retrieved from http://www.bpsweb.org/
  2. Jamison, D. T., Makgoba, M. W., & Feachem, R. G. (2006). Disease and Mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa. Washington: The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
  3. Kassi, M. (2016). Retrieved from http://www.pharmacy.ohio-state.edu/sites/default/files/forms/outreach/intro2pharm/global-practices/Pharmacy-in-Africa_Kassi.pdf
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