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Need For Pharmacy Graduates To Go Beyond Hospitals And Clinics

Last update: 23/04/2013
By Sakini Mohd Said

KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) -- An increasing number of young people are choosing to further their studies in the line of pharmacy these days.

This probably stems from the level of confidence they have towards career prospects in the field, which has also indirectly increased the number of places offered by both private and public universities for pharmacy studies.

On one hand, this could be viewed as positive news because it will produce more pharmacists who would beef up the profession.

On the other hand, however, this development, which is something to be proud of, could, without any warning, bring about the problem of a glut of pharmacy graduates in the perceived popular sectors.

Among the reasons for such a possible scenario is the very attitude of a majority of the pharmacy graduates themselves, said an industry player.

For them, the sectors to focus on to get employment are the hospital pharmacies, government clinics, academia and the National Pharmaceutical Control Bureau.

Due to negative assumptions within the community, the picture drawn is that there is a limited scope of career fields for people in the profession.

However, the career possibilities in the world of pharmacy, in reality, are much wider, said a lecturer at the Pharmacy College of Universiti Islam Antarabangsa Malaysia (UIAM), Dr Kausar Ahmad.

This then brings up the question of what would be the fate of graduates should the vacancies in the popular sectors be completely filled up? Will there be a glut of these graduates in these sectors?

Such a scenario is not totally impossible, said Dr Kausar, in an interview with Bernama.

NO INTEREST

One sector that is greatly overlooked by graduates is the pharmaceuticals manufacturing sector.

There are vast career opportunities for pharmacists in the pharmaceuticals manufacturing industry, where graduates can take up employment with both local and multinational companies, Dr Kausar said.

However, not many are keen to venture into the sector.

"I have no idea why and how it went wrong, but this sector has been identified as among the career fields for pharmacists with a capacity to contribute highly towards increasing the country's income.

"A study carried out in 2008 of UIAM students in their first to fourth years found that a majority of them were not keen to work in the pharmaceuticals manufacturing side. They had said it would be easier working in hospitals and clinics as the scope of work would involve distributing medicine to patients or other areas in the management and administration side," Dr Kausar said.

"Working in the industry, meanwhile, is considered "more of a headache" as it would involve doing research and development of drugs or medications and testing their effectiveness and so on," Dr Kausar added.

Sometimes, the graduates also become more attuned to working in hospitals after going through intensive hospital attachments during their third and fourth years of studies.

LESS THAN ONE PER CENT

Another factor for the smaller number of graduates opting for the pharmaceuticals manufacturing sector is the contract that students with scholarships sign up for, under which they are obligated to serve their respective sponsor agencies upon the completion of their education.

The unfortunate thing is that their expertise is greatly needed to fill up many vacancies in the pharmaceuticals manufacturing industry, where the opportunities are in the areas of quality assurance of drugs or medications, registration of drugs, applications, clinical tests as well as the monitoring of drugs post marketing.

However, due to a deep-rooted culture of fear or not being bold enough has prevented many of them from venturing into this sector of the pharmacy field, which has impacted the industry negatively.

Indeed, pharmacists from India and Pakistan have been brought in to fill up the vacancies in this area.

All these measures had to be taken simply because many local graduates are not venturing into the sector, where their participation stands at a very low level of below one per cent, based on a survey carried out by UIAM.

COMPULSORY PHARMACEUTICALS MANUFACTURING STUDY

It is therefore a situation that needs to be addressed urgently by creating more pharmacy graduates as well as raising the awareness of the wide range of career prospects.

This will also be important in reducing the dependency on foreigners to fill in the vacancies.

It is because of this need that UIAM has pulled up its strength to play a role.

Through its Pharmacy College, which is located at its campus in Kuantan, Pahang, the focus at present is on the production of more pharmacy graduates with expertise in the field of pharmaceuticals manufacturing.

Towards this, the subject of Industrial Pharmacy, which was only an elective subject in the past, has now been changed to a compulsory subject in the fourth year.

This area of study has also been made interesting by not only focusing on theory but on practical aspects too.

A small factory, fully equipped with machineries needed for producing medications, has also been set up at the college to facilitate teaching.

A PILOT PROJECT

The building of the factory, which enjoys the pilot project status, was completed in 2009, and it received the Good Manufacturing Practice certificate last year.

This is important to ensure that all the medications produced here really meet the standards for quality, safety and effectiveness.

Besides that, the manufacturing practices would also have to fulfill the halal requirement, which is in line with the university's practice of Syariah principles.

"The project will equip the pharmacy students of UIAM with the expertise needed in the manufacturing industry. Therefore, the question will not arise on graduates not being prepared for the industry sector," said Dr Kausar.

Even if it is just a small factory, the drug making operations would be the same as that employed by any other pharmaceutical manufacturer, and it is currently in the process of getting its manufacturing licence to market its products.

-- BERNAMA