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One step forward and two steps backward?

Prof. S. Balasubramanian
Thursday, January 19, 2017, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

Recent demand of All India Organization of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD) to recognize the salesmen of medical shops as pharmacist after a short term course has a definite motive and its likely acceptance by the Central government is the show of strength and influence they have. Already India is about 60 years behind developed countries in the field of pharmacy but these peoples want to pull it further backward. What a fantastic display of patriotism which the present Central government tries to promote in day today life!

Why these demand now?
All of a sudden why such a demand is raised? Is it because of shortage of pharmacists in some states as claimed by AIOCD? There is something behind than that meets our eyes. Why such demands were not raised last year? How they discovered shortage of pharmacists all of a sudden? Is there any truth in their claim? That can be easily verified by Drugs Control Departments of respective States. How many retail licenses were issued in the last 2 years? Was it issued without pharmacists? If not, how come there are no pharmacists to renew the licenses in December 2016, as per the statement of AIOCD? Are they claim those pharmacists on whose names the retail licenses were taken died en mass? Or migrated to other countries?

Any one who can think deeply on it can realize the mischief behind it. If there is no pharmacist, no retail license would have been issued, then where is the question of shortage of pharmacists to renew the license? State Drugs Control Departments concerned should come forward with data immediately to save the country and their own image. If there is shortage of pharmacists, retail outlets will be less in those areas. That doesn’t mean people are dying because of less number of pharmacies. There will be crowd in existing pharmacies, that’s all. Even if single pharmacy is not there in an area it may not be due to want of pharmacist, but due to business calculations especially viability, otherwise why there is cluster of pharmacies even in small town? If the AIOCD is really concerned with the welfare of rural poor people, let them press the state govts to open PHCs in those areas. Opening private pharmacy cannot be a right solution for the problem. What about doctors in those areas? Is there sufficient doctors? If yes, they will take care of availability as well as dispensing of drugs, if no, will the AIOCD raise similar demand of permitting somebody to practice medicine? No govt has ever permitted an assistant of a doctor to practice medicine just because of shortage of doctors.

Thus it is not the shortage of pharmacist is the reason behind the demand. Pharmacy Council of India (PCI) has brought new Pharmacy Practice Regulations (PPR) last year - a first and best step towards better pharmacy services in India - and scores of State Pharmacy Councils have appointed pharmacy inspectors to implement PPR. That’s what irritating these money minded people. They want to stop its implementation somehow, that’s why they are out to cry and try to raise a smoke to escape and extract some concessions from govt. They are flexing their muscles by showing their influence with the govt. Thus they want to take India by two steps backward when PCI is trying to go forward by one step.

What is the solution?
If the shortage of pharmacist is true, the solution is to start new pharmacy colleges in those areas of the states immediately. AIOCD itself or its rich members can start these colleges. There is precedence for it. Tamil Nadu branch of AIOCD has started its own pharmacy college some 30 years back. Why can’t other state branches follow that example? Who prevent them? Instead of going in the right way why this demand for cross route? Are all those millions of D. Pharm and B. Pharm holders who studied pharmacy courses painstakingly fools? Obviously those qualified pharmacists in India will be many times more in number than these non-pharmacist owners of medical shops. Even than these minority people have the courage to dominate the majority! Why?

How long will you sleep?
These are all due to sleeping pharmacists of India and their lack of unity. That’s why these non-pharmacists in the profession are getting bolder and bolder year after year and dare to raise such demands. Earlier they have stopped compulsory wearing of white coat by community pharmacists while on duty, latter they openly raised the demand of no pharmacist requirement for a pharmacy. Now this demand! My dear fellow pharmacists, how long will you sleep? If only all pharmacists of India weather in manufacturing, hospital pharmacy, retail, administration or teaching numbering millions struck work for just one day, govt will realize pharmacists' strength. If lakhs of pharmacy students of India also joined the protest, we can easily win. We should raise the demand for eliminating non-pharmacists from pharmacy field. Retail license should be issued only to registered pharmacists to provide self employment. If the government cannot give job for all the pharmacists coming out of the pharmacy colleges, why it is not done?

As long as we have just D. Pharm as minimum qualification to register as a pharmacist such demands are bound to raise their ugly head now and then. Slowly we should abolish D. Pharm and make B. Pharm as minimum qualification as in other countries. Raise your qualification to raise your status and respect in society, and then only unscrupulous elements will not touch you. As published in these columns earlier by this author [Is it beginning or end? Pharmabiz article on 10th May 2012, existing D. Pharm pharmacists should be encouraged to do B. Pharm practice course introduced recently by Pharmacy Council of India by offering concessions.

Many pharmacists in other fields like pharma industry and hospital think it is not their problem. It may be true to certain extend. The problem faced by an industrial pharmacist is extremely different from the one faced by a hospital pharmacist. That’s why this lack of unity, we can understand. But when the question of non-pharmacists entering the profession through the back door comes all should unit and protest. Is it not the common point to unit us? Because we were not alert, yesterday they entered pharma industry, today trying to enter retail sector, tomorrow it may be to your field! So shed that short sightedness. Feel we are all pharmacists and be proud of it. Take the profession and country forward, if you are a true patriot.

(Author is ex-president, Indian Pharmacy Graduates Association, Madurai, Tamil Nadu)


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