Educating pharmacists

A NEW programme for pharmacists is in the works to provide proper guidance on the use of complementary medicine to both consumers and patients.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) on this was signed recently by representatives from the Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society (MPS), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and Taylor’s University, with the Blackmores Institute.

The MoU signing marks the first step in educating pharmacists, both current and future, in the importance of integrative medicine, elevating their roles as trusted consultants to help guide the Malaysian public in their quest for better health.

Research has shown that Malaysians are increasingly investing in over-the-counter complementary medicine.

Blackmores Institute director Dr Lesley Braun said: “Increasingly, complementary medicine is being shown to work alongside conventional treatments to help individuals manage complex health conditions and improve their quality of life.

“Therefore, it is vital that our healthcare professionals can provide the public with clear, evidence-based advice regarding the best way to use these combined methods to improve safety and enhance the responsible use of integrative medicine.”

Blackmores Institute is the academic and professional arm of Blackmores Ltd, an Australian manufacturer and distributor of vitamins, minerals, and nutritional supplements. The institute’s focus is on research and education.

Through the development of this unique and evidence-based healthcare education programme, the institute hopes to provide current and future Malaysian pharmacists with the knowledge and understanding of the range of complementary medical therapies that may be used alongside western medicine in the treatment of diseases and illnesses.

Complementary medicine, in this context, only includes standardised packaged products used to prevent, treat or manage health conditions such as herbal medicines, as well as nutritional, vitamin and mineral supplements.

This programme will be CPD (continuing professional development)-accredited, allowing pharmacists to gain additional professional development points as they progress.

With the formalisation of the partnerships, the modules are expected to be launched in the middle of this year.

MPS president Amrahi Buang said: “Given their pharmacological expertise and distinct relationship with consumers, pharmacists are in a unique position to undertake this pivotal role.”

He added that even though many pharmacists have shown interest for additional complementary medicine learning, very few have been exposed to formal study on this subject.

“Therefore, this collaboration will provide pharmacists with quality resources and distinct learning opportunities that ultimately could help guide the Malaysian public to reach the best possible health outcomes,” said Amrahi.

“The programme will help enhance pharmacists’ knowledge and their contribution to society, which is in line with MPS’ 50th anniversary theme of ‘My Society, My Passion’.”

UKM and Taylor’s University will serve to provide insights and perspectives into the understanding of complementary medicine and bring a holistic learning process for pharmaceutical students in both public and private universities.

Taylor’s University vice-chancellor and president Prof Michael Driscoll said: “We understand that pharmacy students need to have complementary medicine as an integral part of their training.

“We are delighted to be involved in this initiative to help promote complementary medicine learning in the pharmacy faculty of all institutions and ensure all students receive empirical insights regarding the use of complementary medicine.”

UKM vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Seri Dr Noor Azlan Ghazali, in a statement, said: “As part of the collaboration, students who are interested in complementary medicine will also be provided with the opportunity to further their research in this field through research grants and internships awarded by Blackmores Institute.”