Q: Would you describe briefly your journey from school time until your current working life?
A: Well, I am an ex-student of MRSM Serting and right after I received my SPM result, I decided to pursue matriculation in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM). At that particular time, once you were the matriculation student in the university, you will have to continue your degree studies at that university. Thus, after I finished my matriculation, based on my results, I was offered the Pharmacy course. However, I do not have any idea on what exactly the course was all about. But, as time progressed, I felt like the medical field suited me. After I graduated from UKM, I underwent Housemanship for one year at Hospital Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Klang. After that, my first posting as registered pharmacist was at Kuala Langat Health Districts Office. I worked there until 2010 and continued my Masters in Pharmacy Practice in UiTM, after I finished my masters program I was posted to HKL. Nine months passed then I was transferred to Pharmaceutical Services Division (PSD) Ministry of Health (MOH) Malaysia under the Quality Use of Medicines unit. Now, I am a Senior Assistant Director in the department.
Q: Working in Ministry of Health (MOH), can you share some of the job scope that you had done?
A: The first thing when I was assigned was the promotion on the uses of the generic drugs. The main idea in promoting the use of generic drugs is that we want to increase confidence among the prescribers to use generic medicines. At that time, we started a program called GMAP (Generic Medicines Awareness Program). This awareness program is for prescribers and other healthcare professionals. We do roadshows throughout the country, each state will organize half day talks. We established teams that consist of speakers for the talks. One speaker will talk overall about generic medicines, another speaker will touch on industrial perspective, and another two will talk about regulatory affairs which is about post marketing, registration process and bioequivalence studies for generic medicines. Finally, we will invite doctors to give talks and influence other healthcare professionals to be confident with generic medicines. Other than that, we publish posters about generic medicines and distribute them to major hospitals, clinics and private hospitals. Furthermore, we created a CME video whereby the speakers were given opportunities to talk on generic medicines and then we distributed the video to all hospitals and health district offices. Additionally, we also make pamphlets for consumers. We finished our roadshow in two years, which started from 2013. Now, National Pharmacy Regulatory Agency (NPRA) takes over the generic medicines awareness program.
Q: From the GMAP, what are the changes that you have seen?
A: In terms of prescribers working in government health facilities, we don’t have much of a problem. Most of our off patent medicines in Ministry of Health formulary are generic medicines. In actual fact, most of general clinics also are using generic products for their patients. The pharmacists also give counseling to patients and influence the prescriber to confidently use generic medicines. However, in the private setting, the awareness on the use of generic medicines are still lacking. During the roadshow, not many healthcare professionals from private healthcare facilities came. Thus, they still probably use innovator drugs. Some of them may use generic products, but in terms of monetary charges to patients, we don’t know.
Q: Other than doing the promotion of generic drug use, are there any things that you have done to increase the knowledge among the public regarding our profession?
A: As you know, we as pharmacists are so called experts on medicines. However, not many people fully understand our job scope. Most of them know us as a drug sellers. Thus, in order to change that, I have done a few things to increase the awareness among the public. One of the things is that I published an article in the Harian Metro newspaper weekly. I send my article through the editorial unit of the newspaper, and they gladly give me a column on the health section in the newspaper. I love to write, so, that was a bonus part for me. But, as it demands a weekly publish, it takes a lot of my time to find a topic and write about it. I also write posts on Facebook asking any pharmacist who would like to write an article voluntarily. Thanks to my luck, I managed to get some of them to write the articles. Now, after two years, we have about 14 writers, who write articles on a weekly basis for the newspaper. Moreover, we also send pharmacists to talk about medicines on TV interviews. In addition, I also post many articles related to medicine on my Facebook page every week.
Q: In your opinion, what should we do as pharmacy students to raise awareness to the public about the pharmacy profession?
A: The students need to be more active in social media. Because, nowadays in terms of news and other topics, we get to know it first from social media. We need to exploit it to give and receive information regarding medicines. When delivering the information, it does not have to be too sophisticated and or in detailed, but just in simple words. In regard of choosing what to talk about, give a simple and easy title like ‘How to Swallow Medicine’. It may look simple but that’s what the public needs. At the same time, it enables students to improve their ability to write and they may become a writer someday. In addition, try following some of the people in the healthcare profession. Share their posts related to health on your page, if you are unable to write articles. Try to use social media in a good way to educate the public as it can increase the awareness regarding our profession.
Q: Any wise words for those of us who are finding it difficult in the Pharmacy Course?
A: My advice for all of you are to make full use of your 4 years, study. But don’t forget join a lot of activities and have a lot of friends. After you graduate, you won’t have time to do new activities and enjoy new things. Moreover, make use of your time as undergraduates to explore new things. Avoid relationships if you can because it may take a lot of your time leaving you less time for new things to discover. As of current situation where the competition is quite huge, you as a students who will become future pharmacists need to have extra values. As students you need to find the ‘extra’ that separates you from others. It will certainly help during interviews and job placement. As a pharmacist, communication is also very important. The pharmacy students need to think about improving their counseling skill. Furthermore, your hobbies can become your “extra values” if you take it seriously. As a student, you need to think about that. While you are still a student, try to improve your skills and perhaps attain a new one.