Pharmacists’ group gears for ASEAN integration

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/15 April) – Even among pharmacists there is a need to keep pace with the demands of the ASEAN integration in 2015, an official of a pharmacists’ group said on Monday.

Speaking at the weekly Kapehan sa SM media forum Monday, Philippine Pharmacists’ Association business manager for the Davao Chapter Sheldon Silva said pharmacists here should aim for professionalization.

“In the Philippines, there are pharmacists that act and are treated only as vendors of medicines over the counter,” Silva said.

The upcoming ASEAN integration in 2015 demands a better policy environment for pharmacists, according to an officer of a pharmacists’ group here.

He said pharmacists should also be aware of their role in medicine as the counselors of patients seeking treatment for various diseases.

Pharmacists also have a responsibility of caring for patients, he added.

“A lot of patient deaths in hospitals are caused by the lack of pharmacists,” Silva said.

He said a common practice in the Philippines is the existence of “ghost pharmacists” or pharmacists who rent out their licenses to medical supply stores so these stores could get a license to operate.

He said people don’t know that a pharmacist must be present in the store during operation hours, but some of these stores do not even have one, he pointed out.

More problematic is the existence of “non-traditional medical dispensaries” such as the botika ng bayan, Silva said, although he noted that the government has discouraged this practice.

Patients face dangers ranging from allergies to deaths in the absence of counseling from professional pharmacists, Silva warned, citing the case of penicillin. “”The practice here is that patients go directly to pharmacies without consulting doctors because they cannot afford the medical care.”

It should be the pharmacist’s role to advise the patients on the effects of multi-drug therapies such as medication for diabetes and other diseases, he stressed.

On the average, at least 800 pass the licensure exams for pharmacists, he said, adding they have at least 300 members in Davao City.

While pharmacists have relatively higher salaries here, they are treated as pharmacy assistants in other countries like Singapore which has a better curriculum, Silva said.

The educational system in the Philippines should be upgraded to be at par with those of other Southeast Asian nations for our pharmaceutical industry to be competitive in the integration, he said.

A bill has been filed in Congress requiring pharmacy to be a five-year instead of just a four-year course.

Silva said schools like the University of the Philippines and the University of Santo Tomas have been practicing the five-year program. (MindaNews)