After about one and a half decade of intense agitation for the approval of the PharmD curriculum by stakeholders in the pharmacy profession, the programme was eventually approved by the National Universities Commission (NUC) in July. With this approval, all the 17 universities in Nigeria offering Pharmacy and others currently awaiting accreditation for the course are now expected to phase out the B.Pharm programme and replace it with the more patient-centred PharmD.
Kudos must be given to the Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria(PCN), the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) and other stakeholders in the profession whose painstaking ingenuity and perseverance resulted in this laudable feat. None can forget so soon the stiff opposition and consequent shenanigans that assailed the initiative from the moment it was proposed to the time of its eventual approval.
It must be emphasised, however, that beyond the exhilaration that must naturally follow such a hard-earned accomplishment is the need to realise that only half the battle has been won; the other half involves a more conscientious commitment from all stakeholders to ensure that the approved curriculum delivers on its goal of transforming the practice of pharmacy in Nigeria. This is the only way to justify the efforts that went into birthing the programme, and certainly, this is the most effective way to silence naysayers who still consider the new development unnecessary.
It is paramount to constantly recall that the idea of the PharmD programme was predicated on the understanding that pharmacy practice has undergone tremendous changes globally. Contrary to the obsolete paradigm of training pharmacists to be drug compounders and dispensers, pharmacists are now being trained to have skills needed to excel in delivering pharmaceutical care to patients.
To this end, we urge key stakeholders, including the NUC, the PCN and deans of pharmacy schools to begin individual and collective efforts towards implementing the programme in earnest. Pharmacy students must be sensitised and guided on maximising the benefits and opportunities of the new curriculum.
On their part, pharmacists, especially those in community and hospital practice must begin to show Nigerians, through their professional conduct, glimpses of the emerging wonderful era, where the patients benefit more from pharmaceutical services. Nigerians must begin to see the difference between the practitioners of old, dispensing medicines through pigeonholes, and modern professionals dedicated to improving medication use and safety.
In countries like the United Kingdom, Qatar and even Saudi Arabia, pharmacists are already more directly involved in patient care, offering invaluable services as experts and key members of the health team. Pharmacists are now even specialising in some clinical areas such as oncology and cardiology with the goal of offering expert services on medication therapy for patients being treated for those conditions.
Caution must however be exercised to ensure that the adoption of PharmD does not result in a complete shift of attention from the traditional concept of pharmacy training which is more geared towards drug research, quality control and manufacturing. On the contrary, the patient-focused qualities in PharmD must be tailored to complement the drug-oriented focus of Pharmacy because a major vacuum would be created should pharmacists abdicate this equally important role.
It is our view that, should the PharmD programme be appropriately implemented, pharmacy practice in Nigeria will experience holistic transformations that will enhance the image of the profession, improve the expertise of the practitioners and, above all, ensure better healthcare delivery to Nigerians.