How Senegalese Pharmacies Differ from American Ones

A new book takes pharmacy enthusiasts to a different part of the world, where pharmacists are often the first line of care for patients seeking treatment or diagnoses for minor illnesses or injuries.

A new book takes pharmacy enthusiasts to a different part of the world, where pharmacists are often the first line of care for patients seeking treatment or diagnoses for minor illnesses or injuries.

The book, titled Pharmacy in Senegal, provides insight into the role of pharmacies in a country that also embraces traditional healers, herbalists, and Muslim healers as part of the health care team.

Book author Donna A. Patterson, PhD, MA, assistant professor of Africana Studies at Wellesley College, told Pharmacy Times about her experience abroad and delineated a few key differences between American and Senegalese pharmacies.

One of the biggest differences Dr. Patterson identified was that Senegalese pharmacies are independently run; they are not part of large chains, as is common in the United States.

Another difference is that Senegalese pharmacists are often the first line of biomedical health care intervention for certain illnesses. In fact, Senegalese pharmacists may offer examinations and diagnoses, and they can also prescribe medications, Dr. Patterson told Pharmacy Times.

“Some examples include respiratory illnesses like colds and the flu, early stages of malaria intervention, and, of course, common ailments like headaches and throat pain,” she said. “People visit pharmacies for a variety of reasons, but both cost and time can be factors.”

Dr. Patterson explained that patients prefer to see a pharmacist, rather than a physician, because it is free to do so.

Buying medications, on the other hand, can be expensive, out-of-pocket costs for patients, according to Dr. Patterson. The ability to purchase pharmaceutical products can even be seen as a status symbol, since not all individuals have the financial stability to buy them. Those who are able to purchase medications tend to be in a higher socioeconomic stratum, or they are expatriates, Dr. Patterson noted.

Senegalese pharmacies offer an important business opportunity for women, she added. Almost half (48%) of the country’s pharmacists are women, and 65% of the pharmacists in the country’s capital of Dakar are women. Women also tend to hold major leadership roles in private pharmacy associations, as well.

“It is definitely 1 of the professional tracks where women have been prominent for many decades,” Dr. Patterson told Pharmacy Times. “Pharmacy practice was traditionally a male-dominated profession, but it has been transformed.”

Dr. Patterson’s research in Senegal led her to meet some memorable pharmacists, including Majhemout Diop, 1 of the oldest-living pharmacists she encountered. His participation in opposition politics stalled the opening of his practice 3 decades after he first received his degree in 1947.

Another memorable pharmacist was a woman named Maïmouna Diop, who created a pharmaceutical reference manual called Mayite Equivalence that includes more than 2000 entries on biomedical drugs available in the Senegalese marketplace. The manual reduces confusion among the health care team during a time when new trading partners around the world are entering the Senegalese marketplace, and when new names of drugs and different languages could lead to complications, Dr. Patterson said.