Pharmacy in India: At crossroads

Pharmacy in India: At crossroads

Harmonisation of pharmacy education has to be made a global agenda that will encompass the developments that have taken place in basic, medical, pharmaceutical sciences in serving the needs and expectations of society, feel Dr P G Yeole and M P Puranik

Prof Schroff on the call of Pundit Madan Mohan Malviyaji, Vice-Chancellor of Banaras Hindu University started a regular B Pharm course of three years in July 1937. Since then pharmacy education is making rapid strides in India. From handful of B Pharm degree institutions 50 years ago, we now have about 200 degree colleges training more than 10-12 thousand students for B Pharm degree. The number of M Pharm and PhD aspirants in pharmacy has also increased in recent ast. India has made phenomenal progress in the pharma sector that one may not come across even in developed countries.

Current scenario

We entered the new millennium with greater emphasis on higher education, especially professional education. The years gone by have witnessed dramatic changes in educational system. Now women are actively involved in higher education and more and more students are getting enrolled in universities. As a result there is mushrooming of institutes offering higher education in India.

Globalisation has revolutionised educational process across the globe. In modern India, education is becoming an internationally traded commodity and no longer a skill, attitude and values imparting system. Educational system is a knowledge industry under service sector with the entire globe as a market where every individual works for profit making. In this industry, students are customers, teachers are promoters and institutions are service providers.

In today’s India, educational process is no longer considered for building nation but a business venture for future profit making. Institutions/universities are donning international cap and are considering themselves part of global network. Few institutions are already having understanding with institutions, industries at national and international level for collaborative research programmes. Terms like internationalisation, globalisation of education are making rounds. Modernisation of education is essential but not at the expense of losing its basic essence.

Today, pharmacy education is mostly governed by bodies other than its own self. The institutions imparting pharmacy education are affiliated to the medical university or technical university whereas the standards and norms for running the institute are prescribed by All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). The Pharmacy Council of India (PCI), the statutory body of the profession, derives satisfaction in being a silent spectator and as a member of other bodies governing the pharmacy profession, rather than amending the Pharmacy Act broaden the objectives and functioning of the council. The pharmacy degrees are awarded by faculties of science, technology or medicine rarely by the faculty of pharmacy.

Is this state of affair, due to our incompetence or have we become so used to others ratingus that we are not able to comprehend the possibility of an individual existence? Or is it simply that we do not want our other professional colleges to become a part of this developmental process?

Need for change

The pharmacy graduates have to keep pace with the present and future trends which require raising standards at institutional level. The existing pharmacy institutions have to assess their strengths over various parametres, identify their weaknesses and try to nullify them. The notable elements of quality education are quality of students being admitted, qualification of teachers, quality of teaching, kind of environment for teaching and learning process, laboratory training, examination pattern, counselling and research activities. The teachers have a special role and responsibility to play as knowledge imparting centres are grooming trained pharmacist. The most important aspect is the curriculum. It must reflect mission, goals and objectives in the areas of education, research, service and pharmacy practice. This requires periodic revision to update the knowledge of the students.

Pharmacy as a profession

Professional part of pharmacy education is very important. Learning and working in harmony with other members of health care are the immediate needs for the ideal role and social relevance of pharmacist in the health care system of our country. So, the curriculum must be framed taking into consideration the position of undergraduate and the postgraduate to meet the demands of hi-tech pharma industry, at the same time confidently serve the requirements of patient care and pharmacy practice.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Commonwealth Pharmaceutical Association have highlighted the need for a graduate level education followed by one year of practical training before one is capable of effectively performing the role of a pharmacist. The WHO recommends that countries that have not already moved towards a University Degree education for pharmacist should do so as quickly as possible. If a citizen of a country like Zimbabwe, Kenya, Malaysia, Fiji, Cyprus, Indonesia etc can get the benefit of the services of a graduate pharmacist, why should we in India make an Indian citizen receive a pharmaceutical service, which is already substandard.

Industry centered curriculum

Pharmacy education in India for the past several decades has been industry centered. It does not meet the requirements of patient care and pharmacy practice.

Industry-institute interaction is essential. This strengthens the ties for organising in campus placement services for the graduates and to generate resources for research and development. Institutions are having expert, experienced human resources having innovative patentable ideas. Industry should collaborate with institutions to avail these ideas. In return, institutes should acquire the latest technological know-how from the industry. Benefits that can be expected from this symbiotic relationship are multifold.

In India, a pharmacist has no public image. In hospitals, pharmacists are still serving as compounders rather than counselors. The pharmacists do not play any useful role in the health care of the country. Even the new Health Policy of the Government of India (2002) has not recognised the services of pharmacist.

If a pharmacist in India strives for social relevance, justice must be done to the curriculum. In developed countries, pharmacy curriculum (undergraduate) gives more emphasis to patient care and students spend considerable time in the community or in the hospital pharmacy. They acquire good knowledge of anatomy and physiology,

biochemistry, pharmacology and toxicology, clinical data analysis, pathophysiology, drug information and interactions and social pharmacy. This kind of knowledge and skill enhancement prepares the graduates to practice confidently in the community and in the hospital setting. They also have the advantage of interacting with other health care professionals.

There must be a paradigm shift—from present industry centered curriculum to patient centered—so as to achieve the ultimate objective to produce a seven star pharmacist (WHO consultative group on ‘‘Preparing the Future Pharmacist’’ (Vancouver 1997); like the caregiver, decision-maker, communicator, community leader, manager, life-long learner and role model with a social commitment.

Harmonisation of curriculum, at undergraduate level, is essential so that it will judiciously focus on industry, community and hospital settings. So that future pharmacist is prepared by knowledge centres of today to serve global market/community confidently.

Global challenges

In the new millennium due to technological innovation and improved communication, drastic changes are taking place. The field of pharmacy cannot keep away from changes.

Harmonisation of pharmaceutical education has to be made a global agenda that will encompass the developments that have taken place in basic, medical, pharmaceutical sciences in serving the needs and expectations of society.

In this changing scenario the relevance of traditionally offered product and industry centered pharmacy education (undergraduate) must be reviewed.

An effective pharmacy education policy should be drawn up governing the pharmacy education all over the country. The broad outline of the said pharmacy education policy must highlight:

  • The formulation of new statutory body or the strengthening of the existing statutory body to govern pharmacy education at diploma, degree, PG and research levels.

  • The emergence of pharmacy education as a profession by itself without the dominance of medical or technical education.

  • Review of ER of the Pharmacy Act on a national perspective on ground facilities rather than hypothetical claims of projections.

  • Evolving on a national basis, the broad norms for recruitment of teaching manpower and guidelines benefiting scales of pay for them.

  • An all India Entrance Examination Board for conducting an aptitude test for admission to pharmacy courses.

The writers are with the Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research Borgaon (Meghe), Wardha.