Barely ten days ago, the executive secretary of the Nigerian University Commission at a workshop at the great University of Benin, announced the approval of the Doctor of Pharmacy program after a protracted battle that has spanned nearly two decades.
Isn’t it interesting that coming on the heels of that announcement, a young man shared on his various social media handles, an account of an Adverse Drug Reaction that nearly claimed his life and began his narration with the caption “Pharmacists are not doctors”. As expected the post has generated furore and has even been posted on gossip blogs.
The story exposes one of the major lapses in our healthcare sector- our utter disregard for the appropriate use of antibiotics and other Prescription Only Medicines. In saner climes, you shouldn’t be able to walk into a pharmacy, demand for antibiotics and get them- even if your parents are renowned doctors, even if you are a renowned doctor yourself. If you have an infection, the organism has to be identified and a culture and sensitivity test carried out to know the most effective antibiotic to combat that infection.
There are many other drugs that fall into that category that are still dispensed with the same ease as Over the Counter medications in this country. You’ll find that it is only with those drugs with the potential for addiction that we attempt to follow the proper protocols (not every pharmacy does this and many patent medicine stores dispense these drugs without missing a beat)
In this young man’s case, he suffered a severe reaction to Azithromycin (a macrolide antibiotic) after it was substituted for ciprofloxacin which he originally requested for. For an upper respiratory tract infection, Azithromycin is more effective against causative organisms than ciprofloxacin. Personally, I’d recommend the substitution of Azithromycin for Ciprofloxacin for two other reasons apart from its efficacy- its dosage frequency of once daily dose and the fact that Ciprofloxacin is rapidly becoming the most abused and misused antibiotic in these parts.
The reaction the young man in question had was an idiosyncratic reaction, it is not a common reaction with the drug and the incidence rate was not enough to raise a red flag to prevent the dispensing of the medication. However his insinuation that pharmacists should not interfere with prescriptions, in his words- “they should do as they are told” reeks with mischief and malice.
The pharmacist did not spend 5-6 years in school to sit behind a counter and do as they are told, these guys are specially trained professionals whose job is to ensure that you go home with the best medication for your healthcare needs and they are capable of independent thought- the kind that saves lives when they discover drug therapy problems like potential drug interactions, inappropriate dosage regimen, contraindicating conditions and even cases where the wrong drug was prescribed.
In many parts of the world, the minimum requirement for obtaining a pharmacist’s license is the Doctor of Pharmacy degree. The Pharm.D. (Pharmaciae Doctor) degree is a patient centred, clinically focussed degree that equips the pharmacist with the skills he needs to render effective pharmaceutical care (responsible provision of drug therapy and advice tailored for the healthcare needs of the individual patients).
A person who has been awarded this degree after successfully fulfilling all requirements is said to be a Doctor of Pharmacy and in a title conscious society like ours, you can refer to him/her as Dr X or Dr Y. Currently, the only Nigerian university offering this program is the University of Benin but with the approval of this degree by the NUC we will see many more universities expand their facilities to accommodate the program.
PS: This post was written for my friends Ugo and Hero, especially for Hero though because that my friend would not let me rest if I didn’t write this.