In Pakistan laymen have no idea of a pharmacist is; neither do they know his importance in their lives. The fact is they are drugs experts sans whom the public health would shatter. One of the reasons behind the poor state of the health sector is that their pivotal role in medical field has not been recognized in our society so far.

In 2000 Pakistan introduced National Drug Policy (NDP) which aimed at the establishment of Pharmacy and Therapeutic Committees (P&TC) in all divisional and district headquarters hospitals with adequate representation from the pharmacist community. P&TCs were to take on the responsibility of ensuring safe and cost-effective drug usage. The said policy also asked for recruitment of one hospital pharmacist for each 50 beds in hospitals as per the WHO guidelines. The government turned its back on the aforementioned purposes later. In 2009 the Supreme Court of Pakistan in one of its judgements ordered the federal and provincial governments to take necessary actions for the employing of pharmacists in conformity to NDP. The pharmacist community till today awaits the execution of the apex Court’s injunction on which earning of their bread and butter in a respectful manner depends. Being health activist himself, there are high chances PM Imran Khan may abide by this decision only if someone tries to draw his attention towards it.

For the purpose of improving public health indicators, the role of pharmacists must be acknowledged in all categories of health sector. They are the drug therapy specialists who ensure whether prescriptions are safe and appropriate. They critically review and examine prescription orders and put forward recommendations to other health professionals when necessary. Hospital pharmacists order essential medications, make arrangement for their safe storage, and produce inventory in conformance to Standard Operating Procedures. While clinical pharmacists work hand in hand with the physicians. They supervise and evaluate therapeutic response of ongoing treatments, discern untreated problems, and recommend the drug dosage form (syrup, tablet, or injectable etc.) for individual patients. But in Pakistan the doctor community at large is not ready to accept them in this capacity as they want to maintain their absolute monopoly and protect their own interests.

Community and retail pharmacists dispense medicines in accordance with medical prescriptions. They prepare medications in their pharmacy premises according to the special needs of individual patients and also give medical advice to patients regarding proper use of general medicines. In Pakistan the drug compliance rate is abysmally low because patients are not rightly counseled owing to the fact that generally pharmacies are run by non-professionals and most of them have no counselling desks at all.

Having professional expertise in medicines, pharmacists identify and draw physicians’ attention towards drug-drug interactions and contra-indications in the course of different treatments. They report adverse effects of medicines and contribute significantly in disease prevention programs and health promotion of the population. Being involved and watchful of advanced research findings in medications, they guide other health professionals and apprise doctors, nurses, dentists, and nutritionists about new developments.

But in our country pharmacists are left to their own devices. After graduation, most of them remain jobless for years and some go for completely different types of jobs and even unskilled occupations in other departments. Pharmaceutical companies take them only due to legal compulsion and pay them a monthly package of a few thousands, in most cases less than a minimum wage declared by the government. Few become medical representatives who are often, ironically, more qualified than their managers. They have to beseech and lure physicians through different marketing tactics in order to achieve their monthly sale targets, otherwise stand being subjected to ridicule by their superiors.

It’s time we gave pharmacists the place which they are worthy of. The doctor community must be convinced to accept their special significance and the government should allow them to work as per the international practice. According to one report about 500,000 people die in Pakistan every year because of inappropriate drug usage. The prime reason behind this is clearly the lack of pharmacists in our health institutions as it is their responsibility to ensure administration of appropriate drug with right dosage even if prescribed otherwise. Therefore, the Supreme Court’s 2009 decision must be implemented in true spirit and both public and private sector hospitals must be ordered to mandatorily induct the required number of pharmacists.

As a community, pharmacists have a very loose union i.e. Pakistan Pharmacists Association. They need to achieve a greater and complete unity to claim their genuine rights. Its Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chapter under the new and young leadership of Ihsan Ullah celebrated a few miles-stones in the near past, but achievement of eminence in the health department is still a distant dream. The federal and provincial governments ought to listen to the pharmacist community for the good and welfare of the people.