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Pharmacy has been an inseparable part of modern health system in curing/treating the infirm and promoting good health.



Pharmacists have been able to do so with the specialized knowledge in drugs and the understanding of their clinical properties. Such knowledge stemmed from a sound understanding and practical skills in medicinal chemistry, formulation, compounding, quality control, packaging and dispensing of products + advice; and finally all of these need to be topped with a nodding acquaintance in business processes to ensure that  at least 3 decent meals were taken care of.


In the older days, pharmacists were trained as apprentices by qualified experts through OJT (on-job-training) approach. There were very few medicinal products then, and the apprentices were expected to know the A to Z of the drug ingredients to when they become final drug products.

After the WWII, things got a lot more sophisticated and the wars had as much knock-on effects on basic industry like food as they had on drug products. Food is basic physiological need and all soldiers needed food to go to wars. So, the industry reinvented itself by producing canned and preserved food at commercial scale; wars and major adversaries also propelled the drug industry to reformulate logistically stable dosage forms that can be transported to war zone and disaster frontiers readily. It was obviously not practical to put wheels on pharmacies & carry in them large inventories of raw materials, equipment and packaging components.

After WWII ended, the very first BNF was published in 1949 with only a handful of drugs included. 58 years later, BNF now entered into edition v53 with information for thousands of different drugs covering 15 pharmacological classifications compressed within. If pharmacists today practise the way their predecessors did 50 years ago, they will each have to run a full-scale factory producing thousands of drugs and formulations. This is simply unimaginable and impractical by any measure.

For many years now, pharmacy graduates have been trained to take on various roles in the overall value-chain of drug development and commercialization – R&D, formulation, CMC, regulatory affairs, pharmacovigilance, logistics & inventories, marketing and last but not least retail/hospital pharmaceutical care. It’s amazing how much sub-specialization has evolved through modernization of healthcare system; and how much globalization has transformed the omnipotent apothecary then into various professional specialties where we now work. The changing tide is not about to settle anytime soon and we need to continue anticipate and evolve.


We are all trained as pharmacists, but not all of us are working as one; at least in literal sense for Section 6 of Pharmacist Registration Act strictly prohibits anyone who is not registered with the Singapore Pharmacy Board to use the title “Pharmacist” or any of the equivalent titles. Look around us, our peers and our classmates, they are in various areas of work and I coudn't help but to really reflect that we all shared one same training, but we are all in the highly diverse professions........

Ng Cheng Tiang
PSS President