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Pharmacy Board: Graduates earning more money as medical reps
Andrew Rahaman, president of the Council of the Pharmacy Board of T&T, said the shortage of pharmacists exists in the public as well as the private sector. “The shortage is evident by the Government retaining the Filipino pharmacists. In the public health centres, in many instances, you have one pharmacist attached to two or three health centres.” A major reason behind the shortage of pharmacists is that many of them become medical representatives after graduating from the University of the West Indies (UWI) School of Pharmacy’s bachelor of pharmacy programme instead of practising pharmacists.
“After graduating, many of them become medical representatives because they earn more money and benefits. The medical representatives promote medical drugs from the different drug companies. A professional pharmacist now earns about $15,000 a month.” He said there is a possible brain drain because many pharmacists go abroad to do post-graduate studies and work. “The United States offers the foreign graduate exam for pharmacists with a degree and many local graduates take advantage of this to go to further their studies and work,” he said. Rahaman is optimistic about the situation improving as the UWI School of Pharmacy has increased its intake in recent years. About 50 students graduate annually. Rahaman said in three years’ time, about 100 students should be graduating because of the increased intake.
“The Ministry of Health and the Pharmacy Board has been collaborating with the School of Pharmacy over the years and we will be seeing more students graduating in the future.” Nizam Asmath, owner of Central Drugs in Couva, has been in the pharmacy industry for more than 30 years. He is convinced that the shortage of pharmacists is due to many of them wanting to open up their own business. “You have the situation where everyone wants to open a pharmacy these days; whether they are qualified or not. Many of the pharmacists want to open their own business because they think they’ll make money. “There are many other people who are not even pharmacists and they want to get in this business.” Asmath said the cost of opening a new, well-stocked pharmacy is between $600,000 and $700,000. “People think anyone can just open a pharmacy. It’s not so easy. It is costly and you must have a registered pharmacist.”
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