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Kenya facing acute shortage of pharmacists

Bernard Gitau @benagitau

Kenya is suffering an acute shortage of pharmacists with the active registered professionals serving 160,000 persons each as opposed to the World Health Organisation recommended ratio of 1:1000.

According to the Pharmaceutical Society of Kenya (PSK), a paltry six per cent of the country’s 5,000 registered pharmacists are available to serve a population of more than 40 million. The startling figures came up as Kenya marked the World Pharmacists Day yesterday to celebrate the role of the profession in the healthcare system.

The low number of pharmacists, who are key in the dispensing of medicines to patients, poses a threat to achievement of health for all agenda by the government as spelt out in one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“The statistics are staggering considering 40-90 per cent of disease management is medication-centred,” the statement added.

WHO indicates that about 85 per cent of its member states have less than one pharmaceutical personnel per 1,000 people. There now is genuine concern that with the mushrooming of pharmacies in informal settlements, urban and rural settings, Kenyans are at risk of quacks and unqualified personnel, says the report.

In March, Health Cabinet secretary Sicily Kariuki while addressing a  non-communicable diseases (NCDs) stakeholders, meeting in Naivasha said NCDs are still responsible for more than 55 per cent of deaths in the country.

According to Research Institute Triangle (RTI), International the main risk factors for NCDs are tobacco use, physical inactivity, unhealthy diets, and harmful use of alcohol due to effects of globalisation on marketing and trade.

The institute added that being diagnosed with an NCD often means years of poor health and disability, making them a factor in 30.2 per cent of all disability-adjusted life years in Kenya.

PSK said NCDs such as diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney failure, and others require lifelong treatment with multiple types of medicines. Patients need to be well counselled and monitored for drug-food, drug-herb and drug-drug interactions throughout their lives, it said.

“Some pharmacies or drug shops do not have a resident registered pharmacists or pharmacy technician to serve patients as they walk in. This contributes to poor treatment outcomes as patients are not getting advice they need regarding their medication,” the society warned.

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