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Pakistan’s pharmacist shortage means big job market for graduates

KU holds annual job fair to connect with industry

SAMAA | - Posted: Jan 8, 2020 | Last Updated: 2 years ago
Posted: Jan 8, 2020 | Last Updated: 2 years ago

Photo: SAMAA Digital

Pakistan is short of qualified pharmacists, which is why every year the University of Karachi holds an annual job fair to connect its graduates with industry where there is scope.

“This year I’ve invited organisations such as DVAGO, Meri Pharmacy (of Marie Stopes International) and Supermed here,” said Dean of Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Professor Dr Raheela Ikram while speaking to SAMAA Digital at the event on Tuesday. They analyse and interview students for prospective jobs, she stated. “Improving the pharma sector starts here with the students.”

There is much room for improvement.

“For every 50 beds in a hospital, there should be one licensed pharmacist,” said Dr Iyad Naeem, associate professor faculty of pharmacy and the coordinator of pharmacy practice at the University of Karachi. “[But this] does not happen in hospitals here.”

The population density of pharmacists per 10,000 people in Pakistan is 1.4, according to WHO data from 2012. The standard requirement is one pharmacist for every 2,000 people in a community, Dr Naeem explained. 

Pharmacies are unevenly distributed throughout the community and most of them lack licensed pharmacists, automatically rendering them uncertified.  
Even though it is a prerequisite for a hospital to be registered, there is no community pharmacy set-up in most hospitals, which could be employing pharmacy graduates so they become an integral part of the healthcare system.

There are very few institutes in Pakistan that provide pharmacy courses recognised by the Pharmacy Council of Pakistan. Forty-six to be exact. The public sector has 21 such recognised institutes and the private sector has 25, according to the council’s website.

Only five percent of pharmacies in Pakistan have qualified pharmacists, claimed the chairman of the Patients’ Rights Forum Dr Noor last year.

Photo: SAMAA Digital

There are a few ways to check if a pharmacy is qualified, Dr Naeem said: 

  • The pharmacy should be registered and licensed
  • The pharmacist who works there should be registered and licensed and working full-time
  • The pharmacy premises should also be registered 
  • Standards of good practice should be implemented in storage of medicines and even the layout of the pharmacy

The Manager of Pharmacy Operations DVAGO Dr Masood Ahmed Khanagreed as he explained how his company was working to improve community pharmacy practices.

DVAGO would hire 10 fresh graduates from KU after the career fair and they will be trained on the job and paid a market-competitive salary.

“The reason for starting this initiative was some horrifying statistics: More than 40% of the medicines we get in Pakistan are fake or not fit for human consumption,” he said. 

A doctor prescribes one medicine and the patient is given another at the pharmacy, Dr Khan lamented. This can have consequences as severe as death, as stated by eminent pharmacist Abdul Latif Sheikh Sindh last year when he attributed the deaths of 500,000 people annually in the country to incorrect prescriptions.

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