Pharmacists are also called chemists (Commonwealth English) or druggists (North American). They are healthcare professionals whose specialty area is in the safe use of medications, as they handle the composition, effects, mechanism of action, and adequate and potent use of drugs.
Utilizing knowledge of the mechanism of action of drugs, the pharmacist knows how the drugs should be used for maximum effectiveness, insignificant side effects, and to inhibit drug interactions.
Pharmacists go through university or graduate-level training to comprehend the biochemical mechanisms and actions of drugs, drug usage, therapeutic functions, side effects, possible drug interactions, and supervising parameters.
This is affiliated with anatomy, physiology, and pathophysiology. Pharmacists interpret and convey this advanced knowledge to patients, physicians, and other providers of health care. Among other licensing criteria, several countries mandate pharmacists to possess either a Bachelor of Pharmacy, Master of Pharmacy, or Doctor of Pharmacy.
The most usual pharmacist positions are that of a community pharmacist, and it is also called a retail pharmacist, first-line pharmacist, or dispensing chemist. Another common position is a hospital pharmacist, where they give instructions and advice on the proper usage and hostile effects of medically prescribed drugs and medications.
In several countries, the profession of pharmacy is prone to professional regulation. Depending on the legal range of practice, pharmacists may prescribe and give specific medications (for instance, immunizations) in some territories.
Pharmacists may also practice in different settings, not excluding industry, wholesaling, research, academia, formulary management, military, and government.
Table of Contents
- Nature of the pharmacy profession
- Roles and responsibilities of pharmacists
- Training and qualifications
Nature of the pharmacy profession
In the past, pharmacists’ basic and primary function as a healthcare professional was to monitor and dispense drugs to doctors for medication prescribed to patients. After some time, pharmacists’ roles expanded to offering advice to patients and health care providers on the choice, dosages, interactions, and side effects of medications.
They also function as a learned middleman between a prescriber and a patient. Pharmacists supervise the health and progress of patients to make sure the medication is safely and effectively used.
The majority of medicines are presently manufactured by pharmaceutical factories in a standard dosage and drug delivery form. In some territories, pharmacists possess the prescriptive authority to either autonomously prescribe in their jurisdiction or partnership with a primary care physician via a mutually agreed protocol referred to as a collaborative practice agreement.
Higher numbers of drug therapies, aging but more educated and demanding populations, and defects in other healthcare sectors tend to be channeling a heightened demand for the pharmacist’s clinical counseling skills. One of the essential functions that pharmacists are presently implementing is one of pharmaceutical care.
Pharmaceutical care requires taking direct liability for patients and their ailment states, medicines, and management to better outcomes. Pharmaceutical care has several benefits that may include but is not restricted to reduced medication inaccuracies, enhanced patient compliance in medication regimen, and improved chronic disease state management.
It also includes hypertension and other cardiovascular disease risk factors, a well-founded pharmacist to a patient relationship, and reduced long-term expenses of medical care. Most times, pharmacists are the first point-of-contact for patients with questions regarding their health.
Thus, pharmacists have an essential role in evaluating medication management in patients and referring patients to physicians.
Roles and responsibilities of pharmacists
These roles are numerous includes the follows:
- Management of clinical medication, including reviewing and supervision of medicine regimens
- Evaluation of patients with undiagnosed or diagnosed conditions and determining clinical medication management requirements
- Specialized supervision of illness states, such as dosing drugs in kidney and liver failure
- Compounding medications
- Supplying pharmaceutical information
- Catering for patients with health supervision, professional advice, treatment of basic ailments and disease states
- Monitoring and coordinating pharmacy technicians and other staff
- Overseeing dispensing medications on the prescription
- Supply of and advice about non-prescription or over-the-counter drugs
- Enlightenment and counseling for patients and other health care professionals on optimal use of medicines (e.g., adequate usage, avoidance of overdosage)
- Referrals to other healthcare providers if needed
- Pharmacokinetic assessment
- Boosting public health by administering immunizations
- Developing drug formularies
- Organizing clinical trials for drug development
- Collaborating with federal, state, or local regulatory bodies to formulate safe drug policies and regulations
- Guaranteeing accuracy of all medicine labels, including secondary labels
- Part of the interprofessional care team for critical care patients
- Symptom evaluation resulting in medication provision and lifestyle counseling for community-based health concerns (e.g., head colds or quitting smoking).
Training and qualifications
The function of pharmacy training, pharmacist licensing, and continuing education differ across countries and between territories within countries.
In several countries, pharmacists are mandated to attain a university degree at a pharmacy school or a similar institution and/or meet other national/local credentialing criteria.
In the European Union, pharmacists are required to possess a Masters of Pharmacy, which enables them to operate in any other EU country until they participate in professional examinations and language tests in the country they seek to practice in.
Pharmacists are trained in several areas such as:
- Organic chemistry
- Pharmaceutical chemistry
- Pharmacy practice
- Pharmacy law
- Drug delivery
- Pharmaceutical care
An extra curriculum may contain a diagnosis, emphasizing laboratory tests, disease state management, therapeutics, and prescribing (choosing the most suitable medicine for a specific patient).
During graduation, pharmacists are licensed, either nationally or regionally, to give medication of different types in the fields they have trained for.
Some may undertake additional specialized training, such as in cardiology or oncology. Specialties include:
- Academic pharmacy
- Clinical pharmacy specialty
- Community pharmacy
- Compounding pharmacy
- Consultant pharmacy
- Drug information pharmacy
- Home health pharmacy
- Hospital pharmacy
- Industrial pharmacy
- Informatics pharmacy
- Managed care pharmacy
- Military pharmacy
- Nuclear pharmacy
- Oncology pharmacy
- Regulatory-affairs pharmacy
- Veterinary pharmacy
- Pharmacist clinical pathology
- Pharmacist clinical toxicology
Pharmacy in Australia
The Australian Pharmacy Council is an autonomous accreditation agency for Australian pharmacists. It organizes examinations on behalf of the Pharmacy Board of Australia, aimed at qualification for registration.
The Australian College of Pharmacy offers continuing education programs for pharmacists. Remuneration for pharmacists in Australia seems to have remained stagnant and even retrogressed. As of 2007, the award remuneration for a pharmacist is $812 weekly.
Pharmacist graduates are the least earning university graduates most years. The majority of the pharmacists get paid above the award wage, where the median male pharmacist earns $65,000. In contrast, a female pharmacist averages $56,500.
There is a higher number of graduates expected shortly, making it more challenging to get a job. Employment security and higher remuneration with regards to CPI could be unlikely.
This is due to the vast numbers of pharmacy graduates today, and the government wants to lessen PBS expenses. Contract and casual work are becoming increasingly prevalent.
A contract pharmacist is self-employed and frequently referred to as a locum; these pharmacists may be hired for one shift or extended time. There are reports of underemployment and unemployment coming out recently.
Pharmacy in Japan
In ancient times, the men who carried out roles alike to that of pharmacists were revered. The position of pharmacists in society was established in the Taihō Code (701) and re-stated in the Yōrō Code (718). Hierarchical spots in the pre-Heian Imperial court were established. This organizational framework remained hugely intact until the Meiji Restoration (1868).
In this very stable ranking system, the pharmacists and even pharmacist assistants were given status superior to every other in health-related fields such as physicians and acupuncturists. In the Imperial household, the pharmacist was even placed above the two personal physicians of the Emperor.
As of 1997, 46 universities of pharmacy in Japan graduated about 8,000 students yearly. Modern clinical pharmacists practice in Japan (as assessed in September 2000) centers on dispensing of medicines, consultation with patients, providing drug information, advising on prescription alternations, and improving prescriptions.
These practices have been connected to reductions in the median quantity of drugs in medications, drug expenses, and the occurrence of hostile drug events.
Pharmacy in Canada
The Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) is the national professional body of pharmacists in Canada. Specific criteria for practice differ across provinces but commonly include a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy from an accredited university, a conclusion of a national board examination via the Pharmacy Examining Board of Canada, and practical experience gotten via an apprenticeship/internship program.
An overwhelming majority (80%) of Canada’s licensed pharmacists operate in community settings, 15% operate in the pharmacies of the hospitals or institutions, and the remnant of 5% function in situations that may not lawfully need licensed pharmacists such as associations, pharmaceutical companies, and consulting firms.
This possibly relies on what territories/regions of Canada and that of the United States are compared. Remuneration is considerably higher in Canada than in many developing countries. Pharmacists from South Africa and other countries with short-term health workforce shortages to operate in private franchise chains are prone to controversy. Pharmacists’ range of practice differs broadly among the 13 provinces and regions.
Pharmacy in Nigeria
Training to become a registered pharmacist in Nigeria requires a five-year course after six years of secondary school. The degree given by several pharmacy schools is a Bachelor of Pharmacy Degree (B.Pharm.) However, there are plans in all schools to offer a 6-year first Degree course, for which the award of a Pharm.D (Doctor of Pharmacy Degree) will be given on completion.
The University of Benin has commenced the Pharm.D program with other pharmacy schools preparing to begin soon. The Pharmacy Degree in Nigeria is not classified, i.e., awarded without first class, second class upper, etc.
However, pharmacy graduates could be awarded Pass with Distinctions in specific fields such as Pharmaceutics, Pharmacology, medicinal chemistry, etc.
Pharmacy Graduates are mandated to go through a year of tutelage under an already registered pharmacist’s supervision in an approved and designated institution before becoming registered pharmacists. The profession is overseen by a Government statutory body called the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria.
The West African Post-Graduate College of Pharmacy handles post-registration programs on advanced-level practice in different disciplines of pharmacy. It is a college mutually financed by several countries in the West Africa sub-region.
There are thousands of Nigerian-trained pharmacists registered and operating in countries such as the US, the UK, Canada, etc. Due to the somewhat dismal public sector remuneration in Nigeria.
Pharmacy in Germany
In Germany, education and training are categorized into three segments, with everyone ending with a state examination. They are:
- University: Basic studies (minimum of 4 semesters)
- University: Main studies (a minimum of 4 semesters)
- Community Pharmacy / Hospital Pharmacy / Industry: Practical training (12 months; 6 months in a Community Pharmacy).
After the third state examination, an individual is mandated to become licensed as an RPh (“registered pharmacist”) for a license to practice pharmacy. Presently, the majority of pharmacists operate as employees in public pharmacies.
Their earning will be according to the labor agreement of Adexa and employer associations.
Pharmacy in the USA
In 2014, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were 297,100 American pharmacist jobs. By 2024, that figure is projected to increase by 3%. A good majority (65%) of those pharmacists operate in retail settings, primarily as salaried employees.
Approximately 22% of them practice in hospitals, and most of the rest in mail-order/Internet pharmacies, pharmaceutical wholesalers, practices of physicians, and the Federal Government.
Every graduating pharmacist must be awarded the Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree before they are qualified to take the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX) to begin pharmacy practice. Moreover, pharmacists are subject to sit for state-level jurisprudence exams to practice from state to state.
Admission into a pharmacy program doctorate relies on concluding specific prerequisites or attaining a transferable bachelor’s degree. After four years of graduate school (fast-tracked Pharmacy Schools go January-January and only last 3 years), Pharmacy school includes a minimum of one year of practical experience.
Graduates are awarded a Doctorate of Pharmacy (PharmD) upon graduation. The majority of schools require students to sit for a Pharmacy College Admissions Test PCAT and finish 90 credit hours of university coursework in the sciences, mathematics, composition, and humanities before commencing the PharmD program.
Because of the vast admittance requirements and the field’s very competitive nature, most pharmacy students finish a bachelor’s degree program before admission into pharmacy school.
Likely prerequisites include:
- Chemical engineering
- Molecular biology
- Organic chemistry
- Physical chemistry
- Statistics and Calculus.
In addition to taking classes, further requirements prior to graduation may include a specific quantity of hours for community service, e.g., working in hospitals, clinics, and retail.
Pharmacy in the UK
In the United Kingdom, most pharmacists operating in the National Health Service practice their profession in hospital or community settings. In 1979, The Royal Commission on the National Health Service reported that approximately 3,000 pharmacists were recruited in the hospital and community health service in the UK.
They were eager about the possibility that pharmacists might develop their responsibility of providing advice to the public. The new professional role for pharmacists as “prescribers” has been acknowledged in the UK since May 2006, referred to as the “Pharmacist Independent Prescriber.”
Once eligible, a pharmacist independent prescriber can prescribe any licensed medicine for any health condition within their competence. This includes controlled substances except schedule 1 and prescribing specific medications for the treatment of addiction.
Pharmacy technicians, pharmacists, and pharmacy premises in the United Kingdom are regulated by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) for England, Scotland, and Wales and by the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland for Northern Ireland.
The function of regulatory and professional bodies on the mainland was initially executed by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, which remained a professional body after handing over the reins of regulatory power to the GPhC in 2010.
The following requirements must be satisfied for qualification as a pharmacist in the United Kingdom (the Northern Irish body and the GPhC operate distinctly but have widely similar registration criteria):
- The successful conclusion of a 4-year Master of Pharmacy degree at a GPhC accredited university: Pharmacists that are holders of degrees in pharmacy from foreign institutions can satisfy this stage by undergoing the Overseas Pharmacist Assessment Programme (OSPAP), which is a one-year postgraduate diploma. In the conclusion of the OSPAP, the candidate would go ahead with the other stages of the registration process in the same way as a UK student.
- Completing a 52-week preregistration training period: This is a period of paid or unpaid employment in a recognized hospital or community pharmacy under a pharmacist tutor’s monitoring. During this time, the student is mandated to gather evidence of having satisfied specific competency standards given by the GPhC.
- A pass mark in the GPhC registration evaluation exercise (formally an exam): This includes a closed-book paper and an open-book/mental calculations paper. The student must score an overall mark of 70%, which must include a minimum of 70% in the calculations section of the open-book paper. From June 2016, the assessment exercise will involve two papers, as before, but calculator usage will now be permitted. However, reference sources will no longer be permitted in the assessment exercise. Instead, essential extracts of the British National Formulary will be supplied within the assessment paper.