The shortage of qualified pharmacists is constraining investment in the health sector, according to medical practitioners.
According to the secretary Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda (PSU) Opio Samuel, Uganda produces at least 60 pharmacists from local universities per year; against the 3,000 desired.
"Lack of enough pharmacists puts Uganda's health sector in a critical position, it remains unfortunate that we have a pharmacist to patients ration of 1:100,000; against the 1:1,000 recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and this escalates the shortage of human capital in pharmaceutical businesses," he said.
Opio was speaking at a recent function in which Abacus Pharma, a regional distributor of pharmaceutical products handed over sh80m to PSU, to support the organization's Needy Pharmacy Students scheme for this academic year.
He reasoned that encouraging more investors in the sector would avail facilities like modern teaching laboratories, industrial training centres as well as the reagents necessary to facilitate pharmacy courses at tertiary education levels.
The managing director for Abacus Pharma Ramesh Babu said that his company has for the last five years offered full whole-course expenses sponsorship up to 20 students per year in different universities and currently spending over sh4.1m per student.
"Being key players in the East Africa's pharmaceutical industry, we noted that the problem of shortage of pharmacists is so critical in Uganda that without supporting the process at institutional level, we can't have the problem mitigated as quickly as required," he said.
Uganda, with a population estimated at 34 million, is served by only 476 licensed and registered pharmacists, according the recent statistical records available with the PSU.
According to the global pharmacy workforce and migration report 2007, Uganda ranked worst compared to Kenya and Ghana; whereby, a population of 21 million people, Ghana had 2,162 while Kenya had 1,342 pharmacists in 2005 for a population of 24 million people.
Players in the pharmaceutical industry are pessimistic that the shortage of professionals is paving way for the escalating operations of unscrupulous people who promote the wrongful usage of medicine, thus defaming the lucrative business.