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Increasing access to safe medicine

Updated: Apr 14

Writer: More Matshediso

Amos Masango is passionate about making an impact in the lives of South Africans by ensuring they have access to safe and effective medicine.

He is at the helm of the South African Pharmacy Council (SAPC) as the registrar and chief executive officer (CEO).

The SAPC is a statutory body established through the Pharmacy Act 53 of 1974. It assists in the promotion of the health of the South African population and advises the Minister of Health and MECs of health in all provinces on matters related to pharmacies.

The SAPC also ensures that pharmaceutical care provided in both public and private healthcare sectors meets universal standards and seeks to improve the health and quality of life of patients.

“On an ongoing basis, we monitor compliance by inspecting pharmacies and education or training facilities. We also attend to reported cases of misconduct or non-compliance, as brought to our attention by members of the public, patients and/or other stakeholders,” Masango explains.

Just what the doctor ordered

His background makes Masango the right man for the job. As a pharmacist who holds a Master’s degree in Clinical Pharmacy, Masango started off as an intern in the pharmaceutical manufacturing sector in 1988. After a year, he became a production pharmacist and later moved up the ladder to hold a management position.

“After a couple of years, I decided to leave the manufacturing industry and join the public sector. I was deployed to KwaNdebele in Mpumalanga to start a pharmaceutical services unit. After the 1994 general elections, I was given a new position – that of developing and unifying the pharmaceutical services in Mpumalanga,” he explains.

Two years later, Masango became a council member of the SAPC. In 2001, he applied for the Manager in Education position at the SAPC and got the job. He then occupied a senior management post before becoming the registrar and CEO in 2004, a position he still occupies 16 years later.

“I think we have done very well as a council in the past 16 years. I was fortunate enough to oversee the appointment of three boards of the council. I have worked with four council presidents because when I was appointed to this position, the term of office for the then board was coming to an end,” he says.

Masango’s duties as the registrar include ensuring that the Pharmacy Act and the various quality standards are implemented in the education of pharmacy professionals, production of medicines and provision of pharmaceutical care.

He is also responsible for ensuring that all persons enrolled on the register of pharmacy professionals meet competence and education requirements. This is to ensure that South Africans are always served by correctly qualified professionals.

In addition, Masango maintains the register of pharmacy professionals in the country and implements the recommendations of disciplinary committees to remove any person found in contravention of the Act, standards or other legislative requirements.

As CEO, Masango is also responsible for the administration of the SAPC.

“I have to ensure good governance, sound financial management, operations management and the effective management of resources, including human resources and assets, to help the council achieve its legislative mandate.”

Meeting the needs of a growing population

Masango is passionate about taking pharmaceutical services to under-serviced areas.

“We have increased the yearly output of pharmacy graduates to over 800 from around 440 in 2009; the pharmacist-to-population ratio has improved to one per 3 300, including interns and specialists,” he says.

This has led to the increase of qualified and registered pharmacists, from just over 8 000 at the end of the 1980s to over 16 700 this year. Currently, 4 800 pharmacies are registered with the SAPC.

In 2011 the SAPC compiled a pharmacy human resources plan, following investigations which revealed the country needed to improve its training output to meet the needs of a growing population.

“We work closely with higher education and training institutions, which provide the Bachelor of Pharmacy degrees, pharmacy support qualifications and other courses.”

The SAPC’s training stakeholders include the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations, the South African Qualifications Authority and the Council for Higher Education.

The Health Professions Council of South Africa, the South African Nursing Council, and the Council of Medical Schemes, among others, work closely with the SAPC in developing policies.

“If someone wants to open a pharmacy, they have to apply for a licence through the National Department of Health. The SAPC will conduct a quality inspection of the facility and if minimum requirements are met, we will make a favourable recommendation to the department. Once the licence is issued, the pharmacy has to apply to the SAPC for a registration number,” he says.

Ensuring high standards

Pharmacies are graded after SAPC inspections.

“Those doing well are rated Grade A, followed by those with minor challenges – which are rated Grade B, and those that do not comply with our standards are given a Grade C rating. We have measures in place to ensure that grade B and C pharmacies improve their performance.”

Through the SAPC’s Legal Services and Professional Conduct Unit, the necessary steps are taken to deal with non-complying pharmacies.

“In efforts to increase compliance with good pharmacy practice and improve adherence to acceptable professional conduct by professionals registered with the SAPC, we work with law enforcement agencies and the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority. We also have several disciplinary committees that attend to alleged misconduct by registered persons,” he says.

The SAPC also conducts inspections at universities to ensure that they comply. Masango says there was an instance in which a university was no longer allowed to offer degrees in pharmacy because it was non-compliant.

He is pleased that South African-trained pharmacists are able to work anywhere in the world because the universities that offer degrees in pharmacy are of world-class standard.

Masango says it is undeniable that access to pharmaceutical services in South Africa has improved tremendously over the past few years, but he is well aware that more work lies ahead to increase access further.

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