Get to know more about the pharmacist profession in Malaysia

22 Sep 2023 10:46am
Every year on Sept 25, the world celebrates World Pharmacist Day. (Canva photo)
Every year on Sept 25, the world celebrates World Pharmacist Day. (Canva photo)

Every year on Sept 25, the world celebrates World Pharmacist Day. To commemorate this celebration, let us take a closer look at what this profession entails.

Most people are familiar with pharmacists, who are often dubbed medicine experts. However, many are unaware that the role of pharmacists is not just confined to the dispensing of medications.

The responsibilities of a pharmacist are more wide-ranging than what the general public is aware of. Roles and responsibilities of pharmacists: more than meets the eye Pharmacists in the health clinics and hospital setting have a wide array of roles and responsibilities that include the procurement and dispensing of medicines as well as being an educational resource for medication-related issues.

In hospitals where there is a ward pharmacy service, pharmacists act as mediators between clinicians and patients to provide optimal pharmaceutical care through medication reconciliation, identification of possible drug interactions, and one-on-one patient medication counselling.

There are also hospitals that have specialised pharmacy services such as nuclear pharmacy, cytotoxic drug reconstitution, and total parenteral nutrition. At this facility, pharmacists are not only involved in the process of reconstitution of cytotoxic medications for chemotherapy treatment and the preparation of nutritional bags, but they are also responsible for monitoring the patients concerned.

Another hospital service that involves pharmacist skills is therapeutic drug monitoring. This service briefly helps doctors and pharmacists determine the most suitable dose for patients based on the level of the drug in the blood.

The pharmacist has the role of making specific calculations for each type of medication in question and giving the doctor the appropriate recommendations, whether to proceed with the medicine, reduce the dose, or convert it to another drug. Not only that, pharmacies in health facilities frequently carry out health education activities to increase public awareness and knowledge about the use of quality medicines.

In addition to providing information through talks and exhibitions, pharmacists also disseminate information about medications through television and radio interviews, social media sharing, health articles, and home visits to patients.

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This initiative is done to ensure efficient management of medicines at home and to maintain the continuity of treatments received in health facilities. The pharmacy profession is growing over time.

The role of pharmacists is now widening and covers several scopes and other areas of service. For example, there are also pharmacists who serve in community pharmacies.

Community pharmacists are the most accessible healthcare providers for the public. That being said, community pharmacists play an active role in providing patient-centred care and public health education to enhance patients knowledge and understanding of their medications.

In addition to supplying medicine, community pharmacists also have the basic knowledge to give recommendations for the treatment of some mild diseases such as fever, flu, cough, constipation, and diarrhoea.

Community pharmacies are one of the most reliable sources for the public to obtain medicines, including traditional preparations and health supplement products registered with the Health Ministry.

Furthermore, there is a home medication review service that checks the patient's medication management at home. In addition to pharmacists from the public sector, some community pharmacists also provide this service. With knowledge in pharmaceutical sciences and pharmacology, pharmacists could also have a career in academia.

Equipped with this knowledge and expertise, academic pharmacists are the breeders of the next generation of pharmacists and other healthcare professionals. Clinical studies conducted by researchers at the university help to explore new discoveries in medicine and health in general and in the field of pharmacy in particular.

Another branch that a pharmacist can venture into is industry pharmacy, a discipline that includes the development, manufacturing, and distribution of pharmaceutical products.

Pharmacists in this field are the ones behind the scenes developing and manufacturing products for different health needs, which eventually end up on the dispensary shelves.

Pharmacists in the pharmaceutical industry are responsible for carrying out responsibilities in the management and administration of the company, research, development, and registration of new medicines, marketing and sales, clinical studies, and monitoring the use of medicines after they are marketed.

Regulatory pharmacy is another field that pharmacists can go into. In order for medicinal products to be marketed in Malaysia, they must meet the criteria of quality, safety, and efficacy, and this is under the purview of the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA).

Regulatory pharmacists are responsible for the evaluation of the efficacy and quality of therapeutic products before and after registration, as well as post-market safety surveillance. Hand-in-hand with regulatory pharmacy is enforcement pharmacy.

Pharmacists in this area of work are essentially responsible for ensuring all pharmaceutical and health products on the market comply with the provisions of existing legislation.

This includes monitoring the sale of unregistered products as well as the advertising of unapproved health products and services. Pharmacists also have the opportunity to serve in the field of management.

In summary, pharmacists working in the management sector are involved in the planning and development of new policies related to pharmaceutical services in the country.

Academic qualification

A person who wants to become a pharmacist should have academic qualifications at the bachelor's degree level in pharmacy. To pursue studies in pharmacy, a student must have a solid foundation in chemistry, biology, mathematics, and physics.

To date, there are close to 100 universities, both local and abroad, that offer a pharmacy degree that is recognized by the Pharmacy Board of Malaysia.

In order to be able to practise as pharmacists in Malaysia, new pharmacists have to complete housemanship training as a provisionally registered pharmacist, followed by a year of compulsory service at a training premise recognised by the Pharmacy Board Malaysia.

Pharmacists strengthening health systems Along with academic qualifications, a competent pharmacist must also possess strong communication skills.

Also, pharmacists should continually update their skills and understanding based on the most recent research findings in order to enhance their competency.

A reliable practice supported by evidence is one of the requirements for the provision of pharmacy services. To conclude, no matter which hat a pharmacist wears, it is always worn as a badge of honour.

The ultimate goal of the profession is to be at the forefront of patient pharmaceutical care and public health education about medications in order to achieve the best possible health outcomes for the community.

If there are any inquiries regarding medicines, please call the National Pharmacy Call Centre (NPCC) at the toll-free number 1-800-88-6722 during weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., except on public holidays.

Article written by Ivory Jeanne Bakri, Pharmacist Sarawak Heart Centre.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of Sinar Daily.

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