Enhancing pharmacy training to boost regional drug manufacturing capacity

MKU enriches curriculum to bridge region’s pharmaceutical manufacturing gap. In a significant twist to its epic tale of success, Mount Kenya University is investing millions of shillings to transform its pharmacy training.

MKU, East Africa’s largest health sciences private university, has enriched its pharmacy degree curriculum and recruited international faculty to help produce pharmacists who are highly skilled and specialized in industrial pharmacy.

This is a timely shot in the arm for the region’s economies that are poised for industrial take-off.

East African nations currently import pharmaceuticals, including simple cosmetics that can be produced in the region with the right skills and expertise.

For example, Kenya imports pharmaceuticals worth $500 million (about KSh 50.5 billion) per year from India. This is according to the Health Principal Secretary Nicholas Muraguri. Anti-retroviral drugs imported from India cost the country Sh22 billion every year.

The bulk of such imports can be manufactured in the region if locally trained pharmacists can bridge the technological gap that exists between the two countries. And now, in a paradigm shift, the reviewed MKU Bachelor of Pharmacy curriculum planned to be implemented from January 2017 will give trainees requisite skills to make them competent in the industrial manufacture of medicines and cosmetics.

Dr S. Chandrasekhar, the Dean School of Pharmacy, said the university awaits regulatory approvals but is optimistic that this will be granted. He pointed out that the university is adding to, and not removing content from its approved and accredited curriculum.

The dean, who boasts nearly 38 years’ pharmaceutical industry experience stretching back to 1977 in India, says the university’s draft curriculum heavily borrows from the Indian pharmacy training structure which has made the Asian country the global leader in pharmaceutical manufacturing.

Said Dr Chandrasekhar: “The revised MKU Bachelor of Pharmacy curriculum aims to produce pharmacists well equipped to seamlessly transit from university to the pharmaceutical and cosmetics manufacturing industry. The university is adopting a training curriculum heavily inspired by the Indian model curriculum for pharmacists while also retaining the clinical training aspects for those graduates who wish to pursue a career in the hospital and community pharmacy sectors.

Pharmacy students demonstrate how to inject a rabbit

“To ensure there is adequate technology transfer, the university’s management has recruited several professors from top Indian universities to join the faculty in the MKU School of Pharmacy. The university has also recruited faculty that has extensive hands-on pharmaceutical manufacturing experience in local and international pharmaceutical manufacturing plants to ensure that the training is practical,” the dean said.

Kenya’s Vision 2030 aims to position the East African nation as the regional provider of choice of highly specialised health care and a “health tourism” giant in Sub-Saharan Africa. This vision in part requires a strong pharmaceutical manufacturing base which can only be achieved through strengthening of the local pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity and human resource through technology transfer initiatives.

Dr Chandrasekhar reveals that MKU pharmacy students will also receive practical training in formulation of cosmetic preparations (cosmetology). They can work in cosmetic industries or be employed in the cosmetic manufacturing industry, a multibillion dollar sector in East Africa.

In addition, the Kenyan cosmetic industry is currently estimated to be worth over Sh6 billion ($ 59.8 million) and is further estimated to grow to over 7.4billion ($ 73.7 million) by 2018. This is according to Euro Monitor International. It is estimated that the combined Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania cosmetics market will hit $231 million by 2018.

He adds that there has been a shift in pharmaceutical care towards providing personalised medicine and targeted drug delivery systems. “Nowadays, it is ideal to give doses fit for the individual patient as opposed to the practice of giving all patients the same dose yet they are unique in body and physiology,” Dr Chandrasekhar explained.

The international faculty expected to spearhead the implementation of the new curriculum include:

 Dr Epaphrodite Twahirwa, PhD: Dr Twahirwa is a Rwanda/Belgium citizen with extensive industry experience in East Africa and Europe.



Prof Ramalingham Rama, PhD, has extensive teaching experience from top pharmacy schools in India. He will be one of the key pillars in the technology transfer from India to Kenya in ensuring that the MKU Pharmacy graduates are at par in Industrial Pharmacy training with their Indian counterparts.


MKU’s planned training of Bachelor of Pharmacy students in industrial pharmaceutics units such as pharmaceutical engineering will make them ready to transition directly to the industry on graduation. There will be no need for expensive and time-consuming on-job training of pharmacy graduates immediately they are employed in pharmaceutical manufacturing plants.


In addition, the added units such as pharmaceutical medicine will ensure that the graduates are competent to be employed as regulatory affairs pharmacists in regulatory agencies or drug registration departments of pharmaceutical companies.