Why pharmacists need to bring decades old tug-of-war to an end

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By ALI M MAHMUD

For many years, pharmacy professionals in Kenya have been entangled some kind of tug-of-war. It is now being fought in social and traditional media.

The Pharmaceutical Society of Kenya (PSK) represents practitioners with a bachelor’s degree.

The second group, Kenya Pharmaceutical Association (KPA), represents those with a diploma.

Ostensibly, the term “pharmacy practitioner” is used to describe both groups in full recognition that one or the other might find it offensive, at least in the Kenyan context.

However, it should be on record that the use of the term does not dilute the authenticity of any of the group’s qualifications.

So what provokes the intractable disaffection between the two sides?

INSECURITY

Behind the white-coat facade is insecurity, superiority contest, commercial interests and greed all coalesced into one improvised explosive that detonates in the middle of the profession.

That leaves a shattered profession that in many ways does not contribute to the wellbeing of patients and the general populace.

PSK members claim right to privileges because of their lengthy training.

This argument subordinates members of KPA and could be one of the unsettling discomforts between the two sides.

For instance, the importation, wholesale and manufacturing of pharmaceutical products is an exclusive affair of the degree pharmacists.

UNDERDOGS

Retail ownership is the only level-playing field for both groups.

By pursing these exclusive privileges, PSK has in effect drawn a line between its members and those of KPA.

KPA members think they are treated like underdogs. PSK has 4,000 members while KPA membership is 10,000.

Put in perspective, for every 3,500 Kenyans, there is only one pharmacy practitioner.

Even when both groups are combined, the ratios are still below the World Health Organisation recommendations.

At the backdrop of this seismic battle, could there be a third and better alternative that works for everyone? That means a KPA, PSK and patients.

GLOBAL TREND

It is prudent to consider the current trends in the pharmacy profession.

The global trend is neither within the purview of KPA nor PSK. It is a complete departure from the two competing narratives.

There is a compelling need to move towards today’s end of the spectrum in the context of the profession.

That is the reality that every pharmacy practitioner in Kenya and elsewhere in the world must come to understand and begin to embrace.

Dr ALI M MAHMUD, Nairobi

This article first appeared in the Daily Nation.

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