With Malaysia becoming more affluent, the public is more health conscious and this contributes to the growth of the pharmacy industry. Whether it is in employment or entrepreneurship, it provides a wide range of career opportunities in the prevention of diseases and in promoting wellness as well as in providing pharmaceutical care. Currently, there are about 17,500 practicing registered pharmacists in Malaysia.
Pharmacy is a scientific profession, which is concerned with the preparation of medicinally active substances from natural and synthetic sources, their formulation into medicines and the supply of such medicines to patients in treatment and prevention of diseases.
The practice of pharmacy entails a sound knowledge of classification, selection, analysis and standardization, pharmacological actions, toxicity, combination and preservation of drugs and the modern technology of making into a pharmaceutical dosage form taking into consideration safety, efficacy and quality.
In short, a pharmacist as a healthcare professional is an expert on medicines, a custodian of drugs and authority on poisons.
NATURE OF JOBS
Pharmacists work in two main areas of pharmacy practice. In the first area, they serve the patients directly and in the second area they contribute to patients without any direct contact.
In the community pharmacy and hospital setting, pharmacists deal with patients daily while servicing their medicine needs and assessing their medication and treatment plans. On the other hand, in the industrial pharmacy settings, the pharmacist contribution to patient care and wellbeing is indirect. Here the service provided is in the development of medicines as well as the monitoring of the effect of medicines on patients.
Pharmacists play an important role in designing, implementing and managing the activities of management, clinical practice, law enforcement, quality, research and analysis of substances for medical use.
We often see pharmacists involved in the handling and counselling of medicines in a hospital setting or in a community pharmacy (previously known as retail pharmacy). The career scope of a pharmacist is, in fact, wider than those mentioned above.
This is the most traditional form of pharmacy practice where a pharmacist is based in a pharmacy as a pharmacy practitioner providing medicines and medication counselling to the community. They provide and safeguard the health care needs of the patients in terms of the medication and desirable level of medication counselling. The pharmacist could be the owner of the pharmacy or work as an employee. The store can be independently owned, or be part of a group or chain owned by either pharmacists or business investors.
A community pharmacist has to ensure that the increasing complex medicines are being dispensed with caution, meticulous care and conducted with full responsibilities. In dispensing of prescriptions, the pharmacist screens for the correct dosage, incompatibility, possible drug-drug interaction, drug-food interaction, etc.
With the new normal due to the Covid-19 pandemic, community pharmacists also provide e-pharmacy, tele-pharmacy, and medicines delivery to patients as value-added services.
The hospital pharmacist provides an essential component of professional health service in the hospital – be it public or private. He works closely with related medical staff to ensure the best care for patients. Hospital pharmacy covers the dispensing of drugs, preparation of pharmaceuticals for hospital patients and in some cases, even involves small scale manufacturing, provision of drug information, counselling and consultative services, purchasing and management of inventories for drugs, surgical and other hospital supplies and the standards and regulations for them. They are involved in the following departments/roles:
- Management: Pharmacists in this division manage the whole pharmacy unit as head of departments or head of specific units/divisions.
- Logistics: Pharmacists in this unit oversee procurement and supply of medication in the hospital. They also ensure that the medication is properly stored.
- Inpatient Pharmacy (Ward Pharmacy): Pharmacists in this unit provide medication to inpatients as well as ensure medication is properly and adequately stored and supplied. In some hospitals, there are computerised unit dose dispensing machines to increase medication safety.
- Clinical Pharmacy: Pharmacists in this setting work with medical professionals in overseeing a patient’s care plan to ensure the optimal use of medications for the best outcomes through the provision of drug information and monitoring for drug safety and efficacy.
- Pharmacy Specialty Role: Pharmacists in this unit acquire more in depth knowledge in certain areas that allow them to provide special roles in one or more of the following services; Ambulatory Care/Medication Therapy Adherence Clinic (MTAC), Diabetics Management, Cardiology, Nuclear Pharmacy, Hematology/Oncology, HIV/AIDS, Infectious Disease, Critical Care, Respiratory Pharmacy, Paediatric Pharmacy, Geriatric Pharmacy, Renal Pharmacy, Emergency or Military Medicine, Therapeutic Drug Monitoring (TDM) Pharmacy, Parenteral Nutrition Support Pharmacy, Veterinary Pharmacy, Pain Management, Psychiatry,Herbal Medicine, and others.
- Outpatient Pharmacy: This is usually a pharmacy in a hospital whereby pharmacists dispense medication and provide medication counselling services to patients who come for outpatient visits. In the government setting, outpatient pharmacy setting is available in the government hospitals and government clinics. Some of the hospitals provide value added services such as medication counselling, medication review and reconciliation, home medication visit and review, home medicines delivery and tele-pharmacy.
An industrial pharmacist is involved in the production and development of new pharmaceuticals, and the improvement and quality control of existing drugs. Some jobs involve mainly paper work such as providing information to doctors and the preparation of data on new drugs for the licensing authorities.
They are most likely to be in a manufacturing company and can be found in different departments such as Research & Development (R&D), Production, Quality Control, Pharmacovigilance, Quality Assurance, Marketing and Sales or Management.
Industrial pharmacy is generally appealing to the technically inclined or enterprising type. The pharmaceutical manufacturing industry in Malaysia has shown encouraging growth over the years and there is good demand for pharmacists in this sector.
Malaysia is now the leading nation in global manufacture of certified halal pharmaceuticals
Pharmacists in this line invariably assume an executive and/or managerial role in the commercial organizations which can either be principal drug companies or agency houses.
They deal with the importation and wholesaling of pharmaceutical raw materials and marketing of pharmaceutical products to hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, pharmaceutical manufacturing houses and other institutions. A pharmacist can also be an entrepreneur and owns a wholesale pharmacy.
Marketing and distribution is another important aspect of commercial pharmacy. In this area, pharmacists are involved in the registration of the pharmaceuticals to ensure conformity with Malaysian Drugs Laws and compliance with the ethical principles in all business transactions as well as in the marketing and proper distribution of pharmaceuticals. They could oversee a team of properly trained staff to pass on new information to the practitioners.
Marketing and distribution call for frequent travelling. Prospects for advancement in commercial pharmacy are unlimited for those possessing dynamic and progressive personalities and good business acumen.
Another feature becoming increasingly important is the presence of pharmacists in the Ministry of Defence. Pharmacists here practice within the military framework and are considered as part of the army. Not only do they take care of the day to day requirement of a military hospital ( just like any normal government hospital ), but they also ensure that the country has sufficient pharmaceutical supplies in times of emergency as in times of natural disaster or other eventualities.
Besides the above 5 areas where pharmacists can be found, there are other special areas where pharmacists’ knowledge and skills are required.
Compounding pharmacists prepare personalized medications for patients, to meet the unique needs of a patient.
Pharmacists in this area are trained to participate in medication management system development, deployment and optimization. Pharmacists in this sector work in information technology departments or for healthcare information technology vendor companies. In the era of Industrial Revolution 4.0 and Artificial Intelligence as well as machine learning and big data analytics, pharmacy is one of the emerging sectors in this field.
- National Pharmacy Regulatory Agency (NPRA) – Government pharmacists practicing regulatory pharmacy oversee approving registrations submitted by importers/distributors as well as taking charge of Good Manufacturing Practice including overseeing the analysis of products submitted for registration.
- Private Sector Regulatory Pharmacist -– The pharmacists here are responsible for the registration of products for the importers and distributors and provide consulting services for their restriction.
Many pharmacists are employed in teaching in tertiary institutions or organizations such as the pharmaceutical science schools in universities, PUSPATI and MPOB.
Administration & Policy Making
Pharmacists can also work in different divisions within the Ministry of Health such as the Pharmaceutical Services Division (PSD) and National Pharmacy Regulatory Agency (NPRA) to serve as administrators or policymakers.
The Ministry of Health is the biggest single employer of pharmacists in the country. The government pharmacists play a diverse role from senior administrative officers, chief state pharmacists, state enforcement officers, hospital pharmacists, ward and clinical pharmacists, manufacturing pharmacists, etc.
Research & Development
Pharmacists with interest in clinical research can work at the Clinical Research Centre of Ministry of Health, with universities or with pharmaceutical companies. Drug research is very much a part of the pharmaceutical industries and major pharmaceutical companies spend considerable money on research and development. Digital drug discovery and development is the future in this area.
Pharmacists in this setting will either work in hospitals and provide drug information to other health care professionals or work in the National Poison Center. Some pharmacists in this sector are also known as Poison Control Pharmacist or Toxicology Pharmacist.
Quality Control & Assurance
Pharmacists who choose to specialize in quality control can work in laboratories, in pharmaceutical manufacturing companies or with the government. On the other hand, pharmacists specializing in quality assurance can work in hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, pharmaceutical manufacturing factories or work as government auditors. Their job function is to ensure compliance to standards.
Consulting & Training
Pharmacists who become subject matter experts in certain fields can become consultants or trainers in their specialty.
A scientific bent, meticulous accuracy, a calm, logical mind and ability to concentrate are the basic attributes of a pharmacist. For community and commercial pharmacists, a flair for business, ability to deal with and a liking for people, inquisitive mind, and the ability to work as a team are required.
EDUCATION & TRAINING
To prepare a pharmacist for the responsibility required upon graduation, the pharmacy course content is extensive and encompasses topics related to the basic medical sciences, chemistry, as well as topics related to management. These topics include anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, immunology, genetics, molecular biology, statistics, information technology, pathology, pharmacognosy, pharmacology, pharmaceutical chemistry, pharmaceutics, clinical pharmacy, marketing, management, ethics and pharmacy laws.
There are stringent requirements that must be met before one can be admitted into a Pharmacy degree course. The common qualification that prospective students need for admission is the STPM or equivalent with a CGPA of 3.00 or above including a Grade B in Chemistry. They may also gain admission to the course with A-level passes in Biology, Chemistry and Physics or Mathematics subjects.
BECOMING A PROFESSIONAL PAHARMACIST
Prospective students are required to graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Pharmacy or a Basic Master’s Degree in Pharmacy provided by an institution that is recognized by the Pharmacy Board of Malaysia (PBM) and the Malaysian Qualification Agency (MQA). Refer to the following link for a list of recognized pharmacy degrees by the PBM: http://www.pharmacy.gov.my/v2/en/content/list-recognized-pharmacy-degree-pharmacy-board-malaysia.html.
A pharmacy graduate is then required to complete 1-year training as a Provisionally Registered Pharmacist (PRP) with a PBM recognized facility. Refer to the following link for PBM’s step by step application procedure: http://www.pharmacy.gov.my/v2/en/documents/guidelines-liberalisation-prp-training-private-sector-graduates-pharmacy-degree-programme.html.
Upon successful completion of the PRP training, the next step is to sit for the Qualifying Examination for Registration as a Practicing Pharmacist. Upon passing the exam, the candidate is required to apply for registration as a Fully Registered Pharmacist (FRP) with PBM. The candidate will be listed on the PBM register as a PBM registered pharmacist.
The pharmacist needs to apply annually for an Annual Retention Certificate to retain his/her name in the list of Registered Pharmacist with the PBM.
MALAYSIAN PHARMACEUTICAL SOCIETY
The Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society (MPS) or Persatuan Farmasi Malaysia was established in 1967 as the national association for pharmacists in Malaysia. Its motto is “Service towards a Healthy Society”. Its current President is Mr Amrahi Bin Buang.
Among the aims of the Society are to promote the interest of the profession of Pharmacy, to further the development of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Education, to improve the Science of Pharmacy for the general welfare of the public, to uphold and enhance the standard and ethics of the profession, in addition to representing the pharmacy profession and foster close relationship among its members and with other organisations for the benefits of the Pharmacy profession.
The Society organises conferences, seminars and courses, publishes journals and conducts various social activities to achieve the above objectives. It has also established an Academy of Pharmacy to provide continuing education and training for its members.
PHARMACY BOARD MALAYSIA
The Pharmacy Board Malaysia (PBM) or Lembaga Farmasi Malaysia is a statutory authority established under Section 3 of the Registration of Pharmacists Act 1951 and is responsible for the enforcement of the professional practice of pharmacists and graduate pharmacists.
These include the registration of pharmacists and graduate pharmacists; regulation of their conduct and ethics; conducting examinations for admission to the profession; accreditation of pharmacy programmes in Malaysia as well as development and promotion of the profession and representing the Pharmacy profession locally and at international levels.
For further information, please contact:
Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society (MPS)
Wisma MPS, 16-2, Jalan OP 1/5,
1-Puchong Business Park,
Off Jalan Puchong,
Tel: +603 – 8079 1861/60
Fax: +603 – 8070 0388
Pharmacy Board Malaysia,
Pharmaceutical Services Division,
Ministry of Health Malaysia
Lot 36, Jalan Universiti,
46350 Petaling Jaya,
Tel: +603-7841 3200
Fax: +603-7968 2222
Jointly Updated by:
Mr Amrahi Buang, RPh581, BPharm (Hons), MMPS
Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society, 2016-2020
Ms Wee Hui Bieh, AFMSA,
Science Career Asia PLT
Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society
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