Pharmacy is a new profession in Malawi, it celebrates its tenth anniversary next year when 8 students started their course here at the University of Blantyre.
Unsurprisingly it has a long way to go but the students I’ve met and the interns (pre-registration students) are very enthusiastic about taking the role forward, they are fascinated that I have a qualification that allows me to prescribe, and that I advise GPs about their prescribing.
The course is growing and this year there are 50 students.
The role of the pharmacist in Malawi is nearer to the one I had nearly forty years ago i.e just one of supply. Stan, the main pharmacist at Queen’s only qualified in 2011, he was a technician before that.
The pharmacy itself is a rabbit warren of rooms with stuff in boxes piled perilously high. Not only does Stan have to look after medicines but also sundries such as gloves, dressings, x-ray film – in fact anything remotely medical. He also has to have three larder fridges and the controlled drugs kept in his office!
Conditions are far from ideal. There is a delivery just once a month from the Central Medical Stores. Stan doesn’t always get what he asks for, sometimes it’s just what the stores have in stock regardless. Out of stocks are common. Another problem sadly is widespread pilfering of medicines. This makes it extremely difficult for Stan to do his job properly. He’s being moved by the Ministry at the end of this month anyway.
I can’t really help with the dispensing aspect but there are a few things that I will discuss with Stan and his replacement pharmacist, Vongie, next week that might help regarding systems, and making life a little more efficient. It will be up to them to see if the suggestions would work in Malawi.
In the meantime I’ve been doing my best around the nurses and doctors to promote the role of the pharmacist as a source of drug information, not just that of supply.