The pharmacy world in Sierra Leone through the eyes of a Sierra Leonean pharmacy student
Are you like me and worried about the state of pharmaceuticals in Sierra Leone? I could go on and on and on about the very many things that are wrong with the system but what good would complaining do? We all know what the problems are. What we need are long lasting, far reaching solutions. I happened to come across this enthusiastic, optimistic pharmacy student who believes all is not lost! His zeal and positivity is so inspiring and infectious that I just had to interview this wonderful gentleman. He had a lot of good information that I believe y’all will find interesting. Happy reading!
Tell me about yourself
My name is Ishmael I. T. Jalloh. I am Pharmacy Technician and a pharmacy student at University of Sierra Leone pursuing Bachelor of Pharmacy with Honors. Being passionate about Health Education and Promotion, I became an advisory board member at END7, (http://www.end7.org/student-), an international advocacy campaign on Neglected Tropical Diseases. As a member of END7, I was involved in NTD Awareness and education. In October 2015, I won the END7 student of the month due to my support at the Mass Drug Administration, as I was involved in social mobilization and campus engagement at various colleges in Freetown.
During the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, I started an organization that was involved in community engagement that trained over 150 youths on social mobilization; the organization empowers, advocates and improves the socio-economic status of less privilege women and children in slums community in Freetown (Cockle bay community in the Western Area of Freetown to be precise). I was actively involved in the fight against Ebola in Freetown, Sierra Leone.
I was the Vice-President of the National Association of Pharmaceutical Students Sierra Leone and currently the Chairperson of Public Health of the National Association of Pharmaceutical Students Sierra Leone. As Chairperson, I have implanted various public health campaigns like the Diabetes and Healthy Living campaign and Antibiotics Resistance Campaign.
I was also an International Campus Ambassador (ICA) for the World health care students Symposium (WHSS) in Kigali 2017. As an ICA, I am responsible to popularize the concept of WHSS in Sierra Leone, which I did as together with Mohamed Bella another ICA.I am also a founding member of Pharmacare Initiative, an organization which planned the first Global health course in Sierra Leone by Global Health focus.
Why do you want to be a Pharmacist?
To be sincere, growing up, I always wanted to study medicine and become a medical doctor. After secondary school I applied to study medicine at the University. Unfortunately, I had issues with a missing form and the University had already shortlisted applicants for medicine and the only available space was the Pharmacy Technician Course. Thus, I had no option but to enroll in the Pharmacy Technician course. I was eager to further my studies and therefore enrolled into the three-year course which I have completed.
During my Pharmacy Technician Course, I developed passion and love for the profession. I became aware of the role pharmacists play in helping patients during the healing process. Pharmacists improve medication adherence and they are the dug experts. I finally made the decision to further my studies in the career of pharmacy though I had the opportunity to go and study medicine. I want to pursue a career in Industrial Pharmacy to be part of the team of dug discoverers as pharmacists gives life to drugs and doctors use the drugs to give life.
I am aware that you are gaining experience in the field while study. What is your current job position and how long you have held this position?
I am currently a Pharmacy Technician at Good News Pharmacy (a community Pharmacy) and working at the Ministry of Health and Sanitation as a Pharmacy Technician. I was working as an Pharmacy technician Intern since 2016, but only received practicing license this January 2018 to practice as a Pharmacy Technician. Currently my job responsibilities are:
Support pharmacological services by stocking, assembling and distributing medications.
Receive prescriptions and medical supplies; and check their validity.
Select the appropriate medicine and measure dosages to fill prescriptions.
Work under the supervision of a Pharmacist to help prepare and give out prescribed medication. for medicines.
Responsible for the rationale sale of drugs.
What has your experience been in this field thus far?
I have received great experience working as a Pharmacy Technician. I learnt a lot during the one-year internship. I am grateful for my work experience at Citiglobe Pharmacy. Citiglobe Pharmacy is a Diabetes clinic. I learnt a lot on the management of diabetes and hypertension and gained experience on hepatitis and vaccination.
As a Pharmacy Technician, I have gained experience in Wholesale, Retail Pharmacy Practice and prescription handling.
What are some of the challenges you see in the Pharmaceutical Industry in Sierra Leone?
The pharmaceutical industry in Sierra Leone face some challenges. The first challenge the industry is faced with is the issue of human resources. In a country with a population of 7,000,000, there are less than 500 registered pharmacists in the country.
Secondly, the industry lacks motivation for pharmacist as over the years we have seen pharmacists switching over to study medicine due to lack of motivation as the grading system for Pharmacist at the Ministry of Health is not favorable. Also, there is a great challenge with the issue of drug peddling as it is on the increase in the country.
What are some of your thoughts on combating these challenges?
In the area of poor human resource for pharmacist, there should be Awareness raising and education to secondary school pupils on the profession of pharmacist. As a student I have being involved in this project with the National Association of Pharmaceutical Students Sierra Leone(NAPS-SL), to raise awareness about the Pharmacy Profession and to answer question on the following; who is a pharmacist, the roles and responsibilities of pharmacist and the requirement to study pharmacy in various secondary schools in Freetown.
In the area of lack of motivation for pharmacist, I suggest that the pharmaceutical society of Sierra Leone to advocate to the government for good condition of service for Pharmacist and Pharmacy Technicians.
Finally, in the area of dug peddling the first thing that should be done is to review the pharmaceutical drugs act of 2001 and increase on the fine for drug peddling as currently the fine for drug peddlers is minimal and people caught on drug peddling can easily pay the fine and return to business as usual. Also, I suggest that a software is develop for all wholesalers that’s keep record of al drugs the sell including the batch number. So, if a drug peddler is caught with a drug they could easily check the batch number and trace the harmacy that sold to the peddler and they should close all wholesale Pharmacies that sell drugs to peddlers.
What motivates or inspires you?
Working with patients has been a major motivation, especially when you advise patients on medications. They always express tremendous gratitude once fully healed. That inspires me to do more and gain deeper knowledge about drugs.
What do you believe are problematic situations that occur frequently in Sierra Leone?
Self-diagnosis and self-prescriptions by patients, difficulty in reading some prescriptions as most prescriptions are handwriting. Bad attitudes by some patients and conflicts of interest with some medical professionals.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? What role do you see yourself playing in improving the Pharmaceutical industry in Sierra Leone?
Five years from now I might have finished my first degree in Pharmacy and finishing a master’s Program in Industrial Pharmacy. I also see myself establishing Pharmaceutical Industry in Sierra Leone. I want to also play a Role in the Pharmacovigilance department as Pharmacovigilance is concerned with the detection, assessment, understanding and prevention of Adverse Drug Reactions.
What Characterize a great Pharmacist in your Point of View?
A great Pharmacist is one who has good communication, interpersonal, leadership and Counselling skills. A great Pharmacist must be able to counsel patients on how their prescribed drugs work and what to expect while taking them. A great Pharmacist must act as educators to the public on how medications help the body.
The use of tramadol and other related drugs is common place in Sierra Leone. How would you spot drug seeking behavior and what would you do if you spotted it?
During my few years in practice I have learnt how to spot drug seeking behavior in patients by the following ways;
Patient Aggressively complaining about a need for a drug
Frequent visits to the Pharmacy with complaints of pain, and when you decide to give an over the counter medication like NSAIDS, the patient will ask for specific drugs by name like Tramadol.
Patient not interested in an actual diagnosis, but still wants specific drugs.
Pattern of lost or stolen prescriptions
Patients Unwilling to consider other drugs or non-drug treatments
When I spot a drug seeking behavior patient I normally advise them on the dangers of drug addiction. If pushed, I can go as far as to tell such a person that the drug is unavailable.
It is very common place for Sierra Leoneans to self-diagnose and self-medicate. What is your advice for Sierra Leoneans when it comes to the usage of medications?
Drugs become poisonous if taken incorrectly. Thus, my advice to Sierra Leoneans is to visit the hospital and consult a medical doctor when they are sick to get proper diagnosis. After right diagnosis, proper medication will be prescribed and the pharmacist (who are the authentic drugs experts) will counsel you on the use of the medication.
As people, we believe in power of herbs and seeking traditional ways of healing. What are your thoughts on this as an aspiring pharmacist?
Most drugs are derived from herbs and traditional medicines. In African countries, traditional medical practitioners (TMPs) outnumber medical doctors. In Ghana and Swaziland, there are 25,000 and 10,000 patients for every medical doctor whereas there are 200 and 100 patients respectively, for every TMP. In Nigeria, 1: 100,000 and 1:25000. Given the shortage of medical doctors in the African Region, Traditional medicines or herbs contribute immensely to health care coverage.
The World Health Organization estimates that 80% of the populations of Asia, Africa and Latin America use traditional medicine to meet their primary health care needs as patients can barely afford the most basic medical procedures, drugs and vaccines.
For many people in these countries, particularly those living in rural areas, this is the only available, accessible and affordable source of health care.
In Sierra Leone they have given licensed to Traditional healers to practice in the Country making them significant in the healthcare delivery in the country.
What are some common problems you come across when customers want to purchase medications?
Medicine shortage is one of the greatest challenge we are faced with when customers come to purchase medications. Most of the time the medications that are prescribed for them are not available at the Pharmacies.
There are people in the habit of not taking medications as prescribed or instructed. What are the side effects of doing so?
All drugs have side effects and not adhering to medications prescribed will result to:
Symptoms may not be relieved
Disorders may not be cured
Sickness will worsen
It leads to drug resistance
You have been to the World Health Care Students Symposium that took place in Kigali Rwanda November 2017. What was the objective of WHSS, what did you learn and how would you implement what you learned at the symposium?
The World Healthcare Students Symposium (WHSS) is the world’s biggest students conference: a biennial global multidisciplinary summit that brings together healthcare students and healthcare professionals under one roof to learn, discuss and draw inspiration from eminent speakers, policy makers and renowned global health leaders through scientific, educational and cultural programs. WHSS also provides a unique platform for delegates to debate, build long lasting networks and friendships and come up with collaborative and innovative solutions to the World’s most pressing global health challenges.
The objectives of the conference were:
1. Understand and maximize the role of Healthcare in SDGs
2. Advocate for a multidisciplinary curriculum: training in Universities for healthcare students
3. Support the creation of strong and active healthcare alliances for students and professionals for tackling health threats with researches and professional development through conferences
4. Create a platform when innovators in Healthcare showcase them to various stakeholders and promote a multidisciplinary approach in Health Innovation
5. Encourage governments to involve more youth in decision making from student’s level
6. Create a platform for both local and international healthcare students and professionals to various opportunities ranging from exchange program, major Universities, multinational companies and career guidance.
A lot was learnt during the symposium from the Plenary sessions, Short Courses and parallel sessions.
From the recommendation of the plenary session on The Role of Multidisciplinary in HealthCare in SDG’s agenda 2030 was;
A multidisciplinary collaboration starting at the health students’ level is key to the achievement of the SDGs agenda 2030. As students, we believe that education is imperative for producing a future healthcare workforce which is human centered. We should emphasize primary care and collaborate with other sectors to achieve better health for all. As healthcare students, we must engage with the population so that we can identify what they need most, explain the importance of health and work in partnership with our communities.
I will continue to advocate for multidisciplinary collaboration among healthcare and also for it to be implemented in our curriculum. Finally, am planning to organize a similar symposium for healthcare students in Sierra Leone that will be called the Sierra Leone Health Care students symposium.
You will hopefully be attending the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Students World Congress in Argentina July 25th to August 12th. What do you plan on learning and why should people assist you to attend the conference?
The conference theme: “From Lab to Counter: The Different Pharmacists’ Profiles and Their Constant Contribution to Global Health” is especially important from me as I come from a country where most of its pharmacists are in the profession by chance and not by choice. The aim of the conference is to show the wide range of areas pharmacists can develop. At the end of the conference, I would have learnt in-depth information about the different areas in the pharmacy world and hopefully motivate other students by sharing my experience from the conference. The theme for the scientific symposium “Pharmacists and Their Importance in the Application and Development of New Scientific Technologies” and educational symposium “Pharmacist and their Role as Teachers in the Health System” are also relevant to me.
I want people to support me to attend the conference as I have already received a grant from International Federation of Pharmaceutical Students (IFPS) that will cover registration fee and accommodation which I am grateful for. I ask assistance with my flight fee of $2,836. This Conference is very important for Sierra Leone as during the conference I will be applying on behalf of the National Association of Pharmaceutical Students Sierra Leone(NAPS-SL) for full membership in IFPS. Having full membership at IFPS will give Sierra Leonean pharmacy students to be part of IFPSis the leading international advocacy organization for pharmacy Students with the aim to promote improved public health through the provision of information, education, and networking opportunities as well as a range of publications and professional initiatives.
NAME: Ishmael I. T. Jalloh
Email: [email protected]
Facebook: Ivan Jee Jay
Want to learn more about issues in Sierra Leone? Read this thought provoking post on the mental health system in Sierra Leone!
Remember, be sincerely you!