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Knowledge empowerment of pharmacist would drive to achieve Pharma Vision 2020

Thursday, December 19, 2013, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

Karnataka State Pharmacy Council (KSPC) has been at the forefront of pharmacy trade profession. From the organizing several people-oriented programmes like educating public on various diseases and their management by conducting workshops and seminars, to introduction of online registration, renewal of licences for pharmacists and investing in LED (light emitting diode) display in Bengaluru city, the Council has been leading from the front. The latest is that the Pharmacy Council of India (PCI), through its Education Regulation Committee, has gone in for the revision of the D Pharm syllabus. The Committee has approved the KSPC's newsletters, which are seen as informative and educative reference books for the new syllabus of D Pharm. In an interaction with Nandita Vijay of Chronicle Pharmabiz, DA Gundu Rao, president of KSPC, elaborates about 65th IPC 2013 - 'Pharma Vision 2020: Empowering the Pharmacist': Excerpts:

How do you view the theme of 65th IPC - 'Pharma Vision 2020: Empowering the Pharmacist' ?

Knowledge is biggest empowerment for the pharmacist. Therefore, he needs to remain updates in a fast changing world. If a pharmacist is armed with the technical know-how and the practical exposure, he could chip in with his expertise to society. Today, Indian pharmacists are lacking on only one front, and this is in the area of skill up-gradation. Pharmacist's role is not mere dispensation of medicines, but he needs to be a dependable source of guidance to the patient community.

To begin with, the need of the hour was to update syllabus of D Pharm, in which there has been no change since 1992. The education system was in a bad state, until PCI, through its Education Regulation Committee, finalised the D Pharm syllabus. This will transform the education of the entry level diploma holders in pharmacy. The new syllabus is expected to be enforced from coming academic year, July 2014.

A committee headed by Dr FV  Manvi, dean and professor of Pharmaceutics, Dept of Pharmaceutics, KLE University’s College of Pharmacy, Belgaum, has gone in for a major revamp, curriculum update to ensure that the candidates are in sync with the latest developments, along with inclusion of Ayush systems of medicine. In addition, two new subjects - Social pharmacy and Phamaco-therapeutics have been included and are been seen as vital topics in terms of understanding the clinical applications of biochemistry and pathology. This would definitely empower the pharmacists.
A relevant and field-oriented syllabus with a reasonable salary would transform the pharmacists' image. It would help lead them to quality growth path of professionalism. It would see the emergence of cross-functional career opportunities for a diploma pharmacy entrant who in a few years could manage a team of pharmacists in a large pharmacy outlet format. I would also like to add that compared to the western world, there is no importance given to a pharmacist in India.

Could you throw some light on new syllabus of D Pharm course?

Currently, the two-year D Pharm course covers in the first year: Pharmaceutics, pharma chemistry, pharmacognosy, biochemistry and clinical pathology, human anatomy and physiology and health education and community pharmacy. In the second year: Pharmaceutics II, pharmaceutical chemistry, pharmacology and toxicology, pharmaceutical jurisprudence, drug store and business management and hospital and clinical pharmacy are covered.

Now, we have omitted subjects like biochemistry and clinical pathology and health education and community pharmacy from the first year syllabus and replaced with social pharmacy. For this subject, the student will be taught on various diseases including community acquired infections. So long the role of the pharmacist involvement in health camps or event government initiated disease - disorder detection camps was not there. Now, the new subjects are seen as a paradigm shift to boost the candidate’s career prospects.

In the second year, pharmaceutics II, pharmaceutical chemistry, pharmacology and toxicology, pharmaceutical jurisprudence, drug store and business management have been replaced with community pharmacy and management, biochemistry and clinical pathology and pharmaco-therapeutics. Upon completion of the two years course, the candidate will be made aware on the preventive healthcare aspects. It will provide opportunities to them chip in their expertise in hospitals and pharmacy-paramedical training centres. Further, D Pharm holders will also provide services to public to maintain good health - for instance, advises on smoking cessation, immunization and narcotic-psychotropic drug abuse.

The new syllabus will also provide the much needed impetus to skill development enabling enhanced responsiveness to minor ailments. This will create a platform for patient counselling about the disease and medication. Subjects such as phamaco-therapeutics and hospital and clinical pharmacy will ensure the qualified D Pharm to be confident in counselling patients and their relatives on the manifestation of the disease and the different drugs that needed to be administered to control the condition. It will also provide exposure to adverse drug monitoring and clinical pharmacy besides creating openings in departments of pharmacovigilance.

Are you confident that with only these changes, the pharmacist will be empowered?

The practical and theoretical exposure to blood pressure checks, carrying out simple pathology lab tests the pharmacy profession will gain significance and his role cannot be overlooked. It has been extremely disheartening to note that even in the government of India’s Health Policy 2002, there was no mention a pharmacist instead nurses were given more importance. This indicated that efforts needed to be made to ensure that diploma holder or a graduate in pharmacy needed to find a place in the Indian healthcare space. The empowerment of knowledge for the pharmacist was seen to be best way. Now with the revised syllabus and with the first batch of the Pharm D graduates passing out in 2014, we are confident the profession is on its way to gaining limelight.

Coming to Pharm D, what is your view on this qualification?

There is a concern on the employment opportunities for the Pharm D candidates. This is where the government need to mandate that all 50-bed nursing homes and hospitals will need to hire a Pharm D graduate. The move will help to drive several preventive healthcare initiatives. The Pharm D candidate will need to work along with the doctors where he could advice home on the medicines available, it contents, pharmacological contraindications, thwart multiple drug administration and adverse drug reactions. We could see a paradigm shift in the healthcare space if Pharm D candidates service are utilized across medical centres. This is a big benefit for the patient if qualified Pharm D personnel are a part of the healthcare facilities.

Coming to pharma manufacturing front, what are the opportunities for  pharmacy graduates?

Here, there is need for an amendment of the D&C Act, because currently a sizeable number of science graduates and postgraduates are employed at drug production plants after extensive training is imparted. This indicates that at many of these facilities, B Pharm, M Pharm candidates do not find a job. Many small- and medium-sized companies recruit a BSc or an MSc so that their services are cheaper than those of a B Pharm, M Pharm. The difference in package is almost double.

As the president of KSPC, what are the visible trends in pharmacy profession that you can highlight?

Pharmacists play a vital role in healthcare. He is a critical component in the healthcare milieu. Once empowered, we would see a drastic change, and he would be playing an important role in the daily activities of  doctors - coordinate and cooperate with medical professionals to create a healthy society.

What are the challenges for pharmacy profession?

The biggest challenges for the pharmacy profession are the emergence and establishment of chain shops, since the introduction of foreign direct investment, several multinational chains are on their way to set up shops in the country. This would see the end of existing chemist and druggist outlets. In Karnataka, we have forewarned 28,500 pharmacy trade outlets that they could soon be out of business. The lack of knowledge and the inability to empower the pharmacy diploma holders led us to revise and update the syllabus. These diploma holders need to be taught and kept attuned with the advances like the third generation of cephalosporins, and new drug delivery devices. Further, the Karnataka govt is working to set up generics stores in 176 taluks, and this could further see a dent in sales of the existing chemist and druggist outlets, more so in the districts.

What needs to be done to protect the future of pharmacists?

Knowledge empowerment is the only way to protect the future of pharmacists. This would enable them to tap more job avenues not just in outlets, but at hospitals, industries and centres of pharmacovigilannces. For example, in the case of KSPC, it introduced online registration, renewal of licences for pharmacists in the state. The move follows the Pharmacy Council of India’s validity of expiry date of registered pharmacists' certificate until December 31, 2012. In 2010, the Council also went on to invest Rs. 1.3 lakhs to install LED display in Bangalore city which flashes tips on healthcare, medication usage, and storage methods. The concept is a first-of-its-kind in the pharmacy space in Asia, Now, we are working to expand it.

There is no doubt that the future of pharmacists is bright by the efforts. The new syllabus would ensure higher emoluments and recognition world wide. This would also see the Indian pharmacist marching ahead and achieve the Pharma Vision 2020.


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