Title: African Countries have a Duty to Expand the Role of Pharmacists

Author: Precious Ncayiyana

Dispensing, the core function of a pharmacist, is being overtaken by other means such as the internet and automated dispensing machines. This requires a response and points towards a revised scope for pharmacists. It has been shown that pharmacists prescribe as well as doctors and in some instances patient outcomes in pharmacist-initiated therapy were superior. This was shown in primary healthcare (PHC) conditions such as controlling blood glucose levels, blood pressure and cholesterol, all common problems in African countries and elsewhere. Pharmacists already play a vital role intervening in omissions or errors on prescriptions written by doctors. Pharmacists have been shown to play an indirect role in prescribing and dispensing prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription and the practice is widespread throughout Africa. Universal Health Coverage will be more effective with pharmacists playing an expanded role.

a. To improve universal access to medicines.
b. To make better use of the skills of pharmacists.
c. To ensure that the pharmacy profession remains relevant and at the forefront of current developments.

Literature review was used to establish the feasibility of the proposed model.

There’s a real need for pharmacists to start prescribing to improve access to health care for all of Africa. This will also benefit society through improved access to medicines and reduced consultation costs to the patients. The United Kingdom is among first world countries that have expanded the role of pharmacists to include prescribing. It is however, more pressing need for pharmacists in Africa to start prescribing especially in community pharmacies. Improved outcomes have been shown when hospital pharmacists are involved in the provision of TTO (To Take Out) medications and it resulted in reduced prescription errors.

The existing literature although limited supports the hypothesis that there is more value to the community when the scope of pharmacists is expanded to include dispensing. Because of shortages of trained doctors, African countries have a duty to expand the scope of pharmacists, possibly working for a period in a supervised role but without expanding the duration of pharmacist training. Universal coverage can function with more safety and efficiency if pharmacists can prescribe at least at primary care level without any additional skilling. The training pharmacists receive is comparable or superior to other healthcare professionals in primary healthcare prescribing requirements.

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