BEIRUT: The head of the Order of Pharmacists, Rabih Hassouna, brushed off Friday the latest decision by Education Minister Elias Bou Saab to license six new colleges to teach pharmacy.
“It’s a hasty decision,” Hassouna said at a news conference at the order’s headquarters. According to Hassouna, the order has previously opposed the provision of licenses for building new pharmacy colleges as the market is already saturated.
“Over the past years the Education Ministry has been very responsive with the order’s position,” Hassouna explained. “However, we aren’t sure why it took this initiative now in the midst of the political and economic problems.”
Bou Saab could not immediately be reached for comment.
According to Hassouna, in Europe there are six pharmacies for every 10,000 citizens, and in the Arab region there are four. In Lebanon, that figure climbs to a massive 19 pharmacies for every 10,000 citizens.
“Every year, more than 490 members register in the union,” he said. “Some 85 percent of those have graduated from Lebanese pharmacy schools.”
As those who graduated abroad constitute only 15 percent of members, the order believes that there is no reason to build six more schools.
“The Order of Pharmacists warns of the negative consequences of this decision,” Hassouna said. “This is why we are providing the public with this information.”
“[Across Lebanon] the number of pharmacies has exceeded 2,750 while the number of those registered in the order is now more than 6,900,” he explained. “This has surpassed international standards.”
The order is also concerned with the implications of these figures on the pharmacists’ income.
“Over the years, pharmacists’ [monthly] income has been gradually declining, until it reached $1,350,” he said. “If more [students] graduate, we expect that this number will decrease even more.”
The order believes the Education Ministry needs to be alerted to these figures, which it claims reflects the market saturation.
The major gap between the market’s level of supply and demand has prompted Hassouna to ask Bou Saab to “prepare detailed studies for the market’s demands” to prevent any potential overload.