Freeman Cebu Business

Shortage of pharmacists looms

Carlo S. Lorenciana - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - The Drugstores Association of the Philippines has noted the waning number of students taking up pharmacy education, which the group said could be a threat to the pharmaceutical industry.

The industry should now act and do more in strengthening the profession of pharmacists and adjusting to the changes that the ASEAN integration may bring, said Robinson Y. Uy, the president of DSAP Cebu chapter.

“The emphasis right now is really competition among neighbor countries,” Uy, also the president of Cebu Pharmaceutical Association, told The FREEMAN in an interview.

“The agreement now is if you’re a pharmacist in the Philippines you are now also a pharmacist in other regions.”

For instance, he cited Guardian, a big Singapore-based health and beauty company that could possibly penetrate the Philippine market as soon as the integration will be fully implemented in 2015. With the integration, he said, foreign firms can easily set up their businesses here.

Uy noted that the big threat to the drugstore industry in the country is that a number of Filipino professionals are opting to work abroad mainly because of higher wages.

According to online job portal Jobstreet.com’s Salary Report, a one year experienced pharmacist in the Philippines can get an average salary of P10,000 a month; a one to four year experienced employee receives a monthly pay of P14,000; and a pharmacist in the supervisory position is paid P20,000 a month.

“Ang kuyaw ana ma-brain drain na ta og samot,” he emphasized, adding that in fact the Department of Labor and Employment has already categorized the profession as “critical” which means licensed pharmacists are badly needed.

“Although there’s a big list of pharmacists in the Philippines but a lot of them already migrated to other countries,” he further continued.

Uy, who is also the proprietor of Cebu-based La Nueva Pharmacy, further noted that the government’s Professional Regulation Commission has a problem in “tracking down” the whereabouts of those pharmacists who passed the Pharmacist Licensure Examination, saying the agency has “no hold” of them already. Several of them may have worked abroad or proceeded to another career path by studying medicine and never practiced pharmacy which, Uy shared, is actually a good pre-medical degree program than Biology.

Pharmacists are qualified healthcare professionals who do a variety of tasks in the healthcare industry. They are also able to manage drugstores, dispense drugs, give pharmaceutical care and advise customers in proper use of medications.

Uy, a licensed pharmacist, also claimed that the students’ level of awareness on the pharmaceutical profession is not that high because most of them are very dependent on their parents as to what degree program to take in college.

It’s sad to note that a lot of people think that pharmacy work “is not a glamorous job” as they have this wrong notion that a pharmacist is not far from being just a vendor, he stressed.

“Sayop gyod na,” he again emphasized, “because the real practice of a pharmacist is to check the prescription” and give out medications prescribed by physician and other health practitioners.

They are even the ones who advise physicians on the selection, dosages and side effects of medical products: “That is where the strength of a pharmacist comes in.”

Filipino pharmacists have the most advantage with other professionals from other nations because they are able to speak English well and have a good education but the only problem is failing to practice the real job, Uy said.

He added his association has been taking steps to uplift the image of pharmacists in the country especially in Cebu, advising practitioners that “If you don’t want to be called a tindera o tindero so by all means don’t behave just like one.”

The attitude of Filipinos must also be changed especially when it comes to taking advices from pharmacists and practicing “patient counseling” in the drugstore.

“That’s the new trend (patient counseling) now especially in the United States,” he noted. “In the Philippine setting man gud, ganahan ta magdali-dali, di man gud ta ganahan makig-istorya kay wa ta maanad.”

He urged community drugstores to make presence of pharmacists noticeable in the store and make effort to reach out to the consumers and offer them value proposition through free medical services.

Uy shared that some branches of his pharmacy, which now has 14 stores in Cebu, offer customers free blood pressure check-up, medical check-up and other medical services.

These are ways, he believed, for people to have a changed perception about the industry and its practitioners as well. The businessman said: “Serbisyo na lang pud ni sa mga tawo kay sometimes in the business it’s not always business na lang pud, you also have to give back to the people. It’s about paying it forward.”


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