Monash Malaysia celebrates World Pharmacists Day

To celebrate the contributions of pharmacists in Malaysia and across the globe, Monash University Malaysia School of Pharmacy and Monash University Pharmacy Society (MUPhaS) marked its inaugural World Pharmacists Day on 25 September with a series of talks and activities for staff and students.

World Pharmacists Day was designated in 2009 by the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP). This year's theme is "Safe and effective medicines for all" and aims to promote pharmacists' crucial role in safeguarding patient safety through improving medicines use and reducing medication errors.

The event brought together esteemed speakers from various fields of pharmacy to address some of the current challenges, along with the crucial role pharmacists play within the healthcare ecosystem.

In his opening address, Professor Andrew Walker, President and Pro Vice-Chancellor Monash University Malaysia, took the time to laud the university's success for standing among the world's best institutions. "In the recent Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings 2020, Monash University ranked 58th in the world - that's a truly outstanding achievement for a very young university," he said.

Professor Walker also described the university's pharmacy program as "the jewel in the Monash crown". According to the QS Subject Rankings 2019, Monash is ranked third in the world for pharmacy and pharmacology; in first and second place are the University of Oxford and University of Harvard, putting them in "good company", said Professor Walker.

He added that this also puts them ahead of other reputable universities in the world, including the University of Cambridge, Johns Hopkins University, and within Asia, the National University of Singapore (NUS).

Monash's world-class nature aside, Professor Walker said World Pharmacists Day marks the importance of pharmacists in ensuring the best medical care and patient safety throughout communities across the world.

Meanwhile, Amrahi Buang, President, Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society (MPS), led the audience through a brief history of the inception of World Pharmacists Day, as well as the evolution of pharmacology in Malaysia while providing the audience of a macro view of some of the issues currently plaguing Malaysia. Among the problems faced by pharmacists include patients who fail to take their medications, resulting in wastage. "This is where pharmacist intervention is essential," he said, adding that the consequences of non-adherence among patients are high.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared 17 September as World Patient Safety Day, and Amrahi stressed on role pharmacists play in promoting patient safety, which includes medication error or medication safety.

Based on statistics, Amrahi said the majority of prescribing or dispensing errors are detected by pharmacists (92.9 per cent) when compared to other healthcare professionals, adding that pharmacists and aspiring pharmacists must take leadership and ownership over medication safety.

In his talk titled "Role of Pharmacist in Non-Communicable Diseases Management", Dr Sanjev Parathi Thasan, Medical Affairs Manager, Pfizer, spoke at length about NCDs, adding that these chronic diseases are responsible for 71 per cent (or 41 million) of deaths worldwide. Examples of NCDs include heart disease, cancer and diabetes, while major risk factors include tobacco use, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet and harmful use of alcohol.

Dr Sanjev explained that pharmacists are well-positioned within healthcare systems to combat NCDs, and can do so several ways, including by providing support to patients by educating them on managing their medication and screening patients to identify those with depression.

Switching gears, Joyce McSwan, Managing Director, PainWISE shared some insightful facts and statistics on pain with the audience during her talk, "Pain management 101". McSwan shared that one in five people globally suffer from moderate to severe chronic pain, adding that one in three people globally is unable to maintain an independent lifestyle as a result of their illness. To boot, emerging evidence from studies suggests the risk of suicide in chronic pain patients is greater than the risk of an opioid overdose.

McSwan shared that pharmacists play an essential role not only prescribing the right medication to patients, but also on advising patients that more medication is not necessarily better, in addition to explaining why certain medications might be better for them.

To help pharmacy students better understand the types of roles they can branch into upon graduation, pharmacists Tan Mun Cheng and Low Wei Zeik, Y.S.P. Industries, shared some insights from their experiences as well as some of the potential career pathways students can carve for themselves during their session, "A day in the life of an industrial pharmacist".

As industrial pharmacy includes the manufacturing, development, marketing and distribution of pharmaceutical products, Low shared that there are many areas graduates can branch into, depending on their interests and personalities. For instance, Low explained that outgoing individuals might find their calling in marketing, adding that it is essential students avoid following their friends, be themselves and apply to jobs that interest them.

Monash University Malaysia's World Pharmacists Day was done in support with Pusat Darah Negara, Jabatan Kesihatan Negeri Selangor (Know Your Medicine Exhibition) and Sunway Pharmacy (Health Screening & Consultation). Sponsors include Duopharma, Ego Pharm, Medipharm, Hovid, Pharmaniaga and Summit Company.

Students and staff also had the opportunity to visit booths and purchase products by Eco Beeshop, Natural Wellness, Santen Pharma and GlaxoSmithKline on campus.