Arab pharmacists face many challenges in the current times, the most important of which is the need for modern legislation regulating their work so that they can keep abreast of the ongoing changes in the pharmaceutical market, especially as those are successive and rapid.
Ahmed Rabie Hassouna, former chairperson of the Arab Pharmacists Union, said that there are about 350,000 pharmacists in the Arab countries, including about 220,000 in Egypt alone.
How do you view the challenges for the pharmaceutical industry in the Arab world?
The biggest challenge faced by Arab pharmacists was Egypt leaving the union for 15 consecutive years. We succeeded in convincing the Egyptian Pharmacists Syndicate to return again, and Egypt is now leading the union.
Egypt’s return to the union will be a strong point for the development of the institutional work within the union in the coming period, as it has the qualified personnel for this task.
Why did Egypt suspend its membership in the union for 15 years?
I do not want to go into the reasons that led the various parties to take that decision, but the union is happy with the return of Egypt.
What was the volume of pharmaceutical trade between the Arab countries during the past year, and how do you expect the figure to increase in the coming period?
Unfortunately, the union does not have any figures for the pharmaceutical trade. I know that this is unacceptable. This is shortcoming from our side.
I say that the union needs more work from all its members during the current period. During the past session, we worked to reunite the Arab pharmacists in the union, which was why Egypt returned.
But the pharmaceutical industry in the Arab countries is based on individual efforts. We need to have well thought out plans and clear strategies so that the gap in the imports of pharmaceuticals in Arab countries can be bridged.
A strategy for the pharmaceutical industry in the Arab countries will deepen the industry, which would attract a large amount of capital, especially as there are more than 350 million people living in Arab countries. There is a big, promising market.
The deepening of the industry in Arab countries will provide centres of research for the development of human cadres working in the sector, which will enable us to deal with the giant pharmaceutical companies as competitors.
What does the Arab pharmaceutical market require?
The Arab pharmaceutical market requires successive legislation. We need a revolution. A pharmacist is the first line of defence in the society in the resistance to diseases.
We also need training centres and we have to modernise the curricula of the faculties of pharmacy in Arab universities.
The current situation cannot go on longer. Currently, pharmacists are only sellers of medicine. There must be a strong system that starts from production through to the consumer, in which a pharmacist can play a bigger role.
If we create this system, I can tell you that the problem of fake and expired medicines will end.
The reality is that everyone working in pharmacies are not pharmacists. This is also a big problem. We must have a role in directing the patients towards medicine through special records, according to their illnesses.
I do not want to talk as if the pharmacists are struggling to get their pay. These are obvious things. Workers in the pharmaceutical industry must all access their rights, regardless of the prices of pharmaceutical supplies that are moving up and down as the price of raw materials are in US dollars.
How do you see the integration of Arab countries in the pharmaceutical industry currently?
The integration of pharmaceutical companies among Arab countries is almost nowhere to be found. I believe that if there is integration, all countries will achieve significant economic benefits, as financial resources may allow for investment in production, the establishment of factories, or increasing the scientific capacity in some other countries.